An Essex hospital at which two patients tragically died from Legionnaires’ disease has been handed a £350,000 fine having admitted to serious failures of care.
It is three years since 54-year old Raymond Cackett and 74-year old James Compton died from the condition at Basildon Hospital and a court has now decided that the failure to protect the patients’ wellbeing warranted a fine.
An inquiry led by Sir Bruce Keogh into worryingly high fatality rates at hospitals around the country recently named Basildon Hospital as one of 14 in the country to require special measures. Indeed, the Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Foundation Trust admitted that it had contravened Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act leading to 8 patients contracting the disease including the two fatalities.
It is appears that that a cost saving measure contributed to the disaster with managers deciding to reduce the amount of money spent on chemically treating the hospital water supply. This decision drew severe criticism from the Health and Safety Executive which blamed the hospital board for the deaths. The cut was made even though board members were warned about the risks involved by healthcare experts. The court was told that the decision was made in a bid to reduce expenditure during the financial year 2006-7.
It is not the first time that the hospital has been fined over Legionnaire’s disease. In 2007, the hospital was ordered to pay £25,000 as a result of another Legionnaire’s related death. It appears that the hospital has been struggling to combat the disease for over a decade.
Prosecutors informed the court that the fine should start at £100,000 for a sole Legionnaire’s death. It was the opinion of one magistrate that the hospital should have done more to prevent the deaths earlier having known about the issue for many years. The defence responded by highlighting the £3m spent by the hospital in an attempt to tackle legionella. Sadly, this expenditure did not prevent the tragedy and it is yet another example of a hospital based infection ruining people’s lives.
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