Warning over ‘life-threatening’ Legionella outbreak at baby deaths hospital

A HOSPITAL at the centre of a probe into series of infant deaths requires an urgent overhaul of its pipework to avoid a “life-threatening” outbreak of deadly Legionella bacteria.

A report warned that all domestic hot, cold and drainage pipework at University Hospital Crosshouse in Kilmarnock must be replaced within the next five years to prevent a potentially lethal contamination of the water supply used by staff and patients.

Ayrshire and Arran health board was asked to sign off the £2.5 million upgrade as part of a raft of urgent maintenance work totalling £5.74m, which also includes improved fire-proofing at a number of hospital sites after it emerged that the current design could put patients at risk from the “unrestricted spread” of fire and smoke.

The ‘Property and Asset Management Strategy’ report, submitted at yesterday’s [Monday] health board meeting, said the pipework in place at Crosshouse is “over 35 years old, well beyond its life expectancy and suffering from continual leakage”.

The report added: “Pipework is showing major signs of biofilm formation, which has the potential for major Legionella issues. Failure to fund [pipework replacement] will result in increased instances of pipework leakage and catastrophic failures with the potential consequences of no water supply to areas of the hospital.

“Failure to replace the pipework will also lead to increased Legionella bacterial growth within that pipework, the consequences of which could be life-threatening to patients and staff.”

In 1985, 28 patients died and a total of 175 fell ill after an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease at Stafford District Hospital in England, traced back to the spread of Legionella in the air conditioning system. It was one of the worst ever hospital outbreaks.

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