HOSPITAL FACES THE CONSEQUENCES OF CUTTING BACK ITS WATER TREATMENT PROGRAMME TO SAVE MONEY
The deaths from Legionnaires’ disease at Basildon Hospital show that cutbacks on water treatment programme to save money together with a complacent attitude can have tragic consequences. Blane Judd, Chief Executive of B&ES (the Building & Engineering Services Association), comments on the recent prosecution of the hospital that resulted in a £100,000 fine.
27 March 2013 – An Essex hospital facing a £100,000 fine over an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that killed two people had cut their water treatment programme to save money.
Basildon Hospital, which has a history of legionella infestation, had ignored warnings from regulators and consultants and reduced their spending on chemical treatment of their water system. Two people died and a further six people were seriously ill leading up to 2010, with three more cases occurring in autumn 2011 resulting in another death.
Pascal Bates, prosecuting the case for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), revealed that the hospital cut spending on chemical treatment of the water system in an “inappropriate cost saving measure”.
Clare Panniker, chief executive of Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, pledged “total” commitment to reducing the risk.
Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price described the hospital as “totally negligent” but welcomed promises to reduce the risk.
Commenting on this case, Blane Judd, Chief Executive of B&ES (the Buildings & Engineering Services Association), said, “This shows the folly and tragic consequences that can result when hospitals and other larger establishments cut back on a regular programme of inspection and maintenance of water holding and water supply systems.
“Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia but it is possible to significantly reduce the risk of creating the conditions in which the legionella bacteria thrive by taking important measures such as a programme of regular inspection and maintenance of susceptible plant and equipment including regular cleaning and disinfection.
“On average there are approximately 300 reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease each year in the UK and when clusters of cases occur, such as those at Basildon Hospital, they can typically be traced back to poorly maintained cooling tower systems, air conditioning plant or hot and cold water systems”.
In conclusion Mr Judd said that building owners and occupiers should be aware of and comply with their legal obligations and that these were set out in a single document, published by the Health and Safety Commission (HSC), called ‘Legionnaires’ disease – The control of legionella bacteria in water systems’. This is a HSC Approved Code of Practice (ACoP), commonly referred to as L8.
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