Hospital prosecuted over legionnaires record

BASILDON Hospital will be prosecuted for a string of health and safety breaches which led to patients contracting deadly legionnaires disease.

The Gazette can reveal the health and safety watchdog is taking the trust to court in connection with cases of the disease contracted at the hospital between 2004 and 2010.

It comes just a week after hospital bosses announced a “zero tolerance” strategy to tackle the virus and said there was just a “one-in-a-million chance” of patients catching it.

The trust has been notified in writing of the Health and Safety Executive’s intention to prosecute, but no court date has been fixed.

It will be the second prosecution against the hospital over legionnaires.

It was fined £20,000 in 2004 after George Bate caught the disease there and died in 2002.

Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price, who has called for improvements at the hospital, welcomed the news, but said it was “a long time coming”.

She said: “Weaknesses in management of the hospital estate have led to this. I am disappointed the Health and Safety Executive has taken so long, but now it has taken action, let’s hope it can fix the problem.”

The hospital is now under the control of chief executive Clare Panniker and a new board after her predecessor, Alan Whittle, who faced repeated calls to step down in the wake of other problems, retired.

Mrs Doyle-Price added: “I hope the new leadership will be a lot less complacent than the previous. I wish them well. “They have to succeed because the people of Basildon and Thurrock deserve nothing less, but I won’t accept things have improved until I see evidence.”

Joyce Compton, 74, from Kings Way, Billericay, lost husband James to the disease he caught at the hospital in June 2007.

In a tragic twist of fate her sister-in-law, Violet Shirmer, from Beams Way, Billericay, was the last person to catch the disease at the hospital, last November, and also died.

Mrs Compton said: “A prosecution won’t help me or my husband, but hopefully it might help stop people getting it in the future. “They have said they are now doing their best so I hope it is true, because it has affected too many people.”

Mrs Shirmer’s case is not involved in the prosecution as there has yet to be an inquest into her death.

Adam Sewell-Jones, hospital finance director, said: “We have been notified by the Health and Safety Executive’s lawyer of the intention to prosecute.

“I don’t really know any more at this stage other than it is cases up to 2010, so there could be further action depending on the outcome of the remaining inquest.”

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