A DYING nurse who worked at Ravenscraig Hospital for 20 years blames her life-ending illness on the plethora of poisons found within the former medical facility's sprawling grounds.

Elizabeth Hegarty — who says she knew nothing about confirmed 'multiple exceedances' of dangerous contaminants until they were revealed through a Greenock Telegraph investigation — has been diagnosed with the terminal lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Her friend and former Ravenscraig colleague Elaine McGrath has a rare form of leukaemia, and both women believe that the former hospital's toxic land is the common denominator regarding their medical plights.

Retired Mrs Hegarty, 70, of Broomhill, claims that she, Mrs McGrath and 'many others' are the victims of a cover-up by bosses at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, who sold the land for £1.

Mrs Hegarty hit out: "We've been lied to for years and years and it's been covered up, one lie after another.

"I am disgusted with the health board for allowing the hospital to operate — even building more units there — when they knew they were all on toxic land."

Fellow nurse Mrs McGrath, 57 — who continues to work for the health board — has decided to speak out against her employer 'because Ravenscraig is so serious'.

She said: "I have leukaemia, another one of my colleagues has just been diagnosed now with leukaemia and another woman who I worked with there has died from cancer.

"I know of others who have been ill through cancer but I don't know if these cases are linked.

"But we've all worked at Ravenscraig."

Asked if she believes that her acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is directly linked to the dangerous and cancer-causing chemicals discovered within the Ravenscraig grounds, Mrs McGrath replied: "Yes, most definitely."

Mrs Hegarty said: "I think it's come through the water supply and just generally by walking through the grounds every single day.

"The toxins that are actually in the ground, when it rains, they come to the top."

The Telegraph revealed in March that harmful chemical contamination at Ravenscraig is more than eight times above acceptable levels defined by the UK Government's Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs.

Housing supplier Link Group Ltd now owns the land and stands to receive £15m of public money after gaining planning permission to build 198 family homes on the toxic site.

Among the pollutants found there are cadmium, mercury, arsenic and lead.

Assurances given by Link to the Scottish Government that the contaminants are 'not leachable or soluble and will not migrate horizontally' have been found to be untrue.

Meanwhile, pollution expert Professor Andrew Watterson has declared that proposed remediation measures to allow the development to go ahead will ultimately fail.

Mrs Hegarty — who worked in the main hospital building and in the Kirn/Gryffe unit that was built in the 1990s — said of the health board: "I think they should be brought to justice; these people who knew about all this contamination and kept it hidden from us.

"They shouldn't get away with it."

Mrs Hegarty added: "The housing development should not go ahead.

"Twenty years down the line are other people going to end up with diseases as a result of these houses getting built?"

Mrs McGrath — who underwent a lifesaving bone marrow transplant in 2016 — said: "I'm furious. I really am absolutely furious that they lied about the grounds.

"To put staff and patients at risk.

"I mean, there's many, many more who we don't know what happened to them.

"I wouldn't have known about the contamination until I read about it in your paper, and I thought, 'My God'.

"If it wasn't for the Telegraph we wouldn't have known anything about it.

"This is a story that needs to be told, and my hope now is that others now come forward and speak to you."

Both women say they know of two former Ravenscraig groundsmen who died from leukaemia, that the hospital was 'dripping with asbestos' and other health workers have told how taps ran with brown-coloured water after heavy bouts of rainfall.


In response to Mrs Hegarty and Mrs McGrath's statements, a spokesman for NHS GGC said today: "We are not aware of any link between the site and any staff illness.

"In any population there would always be a background rate of people with acute leukaemia of different kinds.

"Ravenscraig, like many historical sites, was found to have sources of potential contamination but a risk assessment found these to be of moderate to low risk.

"This was also backed up Inverclyde Council which concluded that it was 'not likely to present a significant risk to human health or the wider environment'.

The health board spokesman added: "Ravenscraig's water supply was from the mains water supply which fed cold water storage tanks which in turn fed appliances.

"There was no physical way rain water and mains water could mix. Mains water pipes are under positive pressure meaning water would leak out of the pipes rather than into the hospital system.

"Every hospital in Scotland has its water tested for Legionella and Pseudomonas on a regular basis. The contractor seen was carrying out this work in line with the approved Code of Practice Guidelines.

"If any asbestos was indeed exposed on the site, and we have no evidence of this, it would not prove a harm to health unless it was destroyed in an uncontrolled way."