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Health Board fined after patient contracts legionnaires’ disease

Lanarkshire Health Board has been fined £24,000 at Hamilton Sheriff Court for a breach of Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which led to the serious illness of a hospital patient.

Over the course of November 2008, the 64-year old female patient at Hartwoodhill Hospital became gravely unwell.

She was admitted to Wishaw General Hospital, where it was discovered that she was suffering from pneumonia and severe sepsis and was diagnosed as having Legionnaires’ Disease. She was treated with intravenous antibiotics, but required to undergo a tracheotomy on 1st December 2008. She returned to Hartwoodhill Hospital on 23rd December.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified that legionella bacteria was present in three sources in the water system at the hospital. Two of those sources, including the shower used by the patient on a daily basis, matched the strain of legionella bacteria that had caused her illness.

The HSE investigation also established that a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks from the potential presence of legionella bacteria to persons using the facilities had not been carried out, nor was there a safe scheme in place to manage and control the risks of exposure to that form of bacteria in the water system at Hartwoodhill Hospital.

Following the case, Elaine Taylor, Head of the COPFS Health and Safety Division, said: “Legionnaires’ disease is a very dangerous illness and those who fail to manage their systems adequately and expose persons to risk of contracting it, whether private companies or bodies such as Health Boards, can expect to be prosecuted.”

 

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