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10 years on, legionella till a risk to Basildon Hospital patients
12:00pm Thursday 12th July 2012 in News
LEGIONELLA is still a risk to patients at Basildon Hospital – ten years after a fatal outbreak and despite millions being spent trying to kill the bug.
Hospital bosses are spending a sixth of their maintenance budget – around £500,000 a year – trying to reduce the risk of the bacteria which thrives in cold water systems and can lead to potentially-fatal Legionnaires’ disease.
Despite this, regulators say the trust is not doing enough and the hospital has yet to meet all targets to minimise risk.
It is now being monitored by three health bodies, South West Essex Primary Care Trust, the Strategic Health Authority and watchdog Monitor, and will have a report back on its progress in September.
Hospital chairman Ian Luder said: “If there was a golden bullet, we would take it. But we have sought advice from all the national experts and they all agree the bug cannot be completely eradicated.
“Legionella avoidance is a very high priority for us. We have spent £2million since 2002 and £500,000 a year on water management systems. One in every six pounds we spend on maintenance is on water system management.”
The hospital first hit the headlines for Legionnaires ten years ago, when George Bate, 77, died, leading to a £25,000 fine for the hospital and promised improvements.
Since then, there have been at least 13 cases of the disease, the last in November. In contrast, Southend Hospital has had no cases of Legionnaires since 2003.
In February, the Care Quality Commission flagged up legionella management as a major concern at Basildon Hospital and ordered steps be taken after last November’s inquests into the deaths of James Compton, 74, in 2007 and Raymond Cackett, 54, in 2010.
However, the hospital has still not satisfied the commission. In its latest report it, the commission said: “There are ongoing significant concerns regarding the prevention and control of legionella at the hospital, despite past action having been taken by the trust to reduce the risk.”
Mr Compton’s widow, Joyce, from Kings Way, Billericay, said: “Back in 2007, they said things would improve, but it is still there.
“I feel for anyone else who catches this. I would be terrified to go into the hospital for an operation.”
A legionella expert said the hospital may never fully be able to cure the problem. Simon French, of Water Hygiene Training, said: “Hospitals are doing everything they can to try and control it.
“But with so many people ill and with low immune systems, it is never going to be totally under control.”