Legionnaires’ outbreak: Call for probe after widower sent home with killer bug

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AN MSP has demanded an urgent inquiry into the legionnaires’ disease testing process after a pensioner collapsed with the bug days after being sent home from hospital.

Sarah Boyack, Labour MSP for the Lothians, made the call after a 77-year-old widower fell ill at home, even though he made five visits to his GP and the Western General displaying telltale signs of the disease.

The Evening News told yesterday how David Jones, from Parkhead, was rushed to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary last week and tested positive for the legionella 
infection.

It is understood he is being treated in a high-
dependency unit at the hospital and will shortly be transferred to a respiratory ward. Ms Boyack today called on health chiefs to take a “hard look” at the process they used to identify individuals with possible symptoms of the disease.

She said: “This person was in and out of the health service several times and you would think it would have been picked up. It absolutely makes the case for a proper inquiry.

“Three lives have been lost in this outbreak. Patient safety is absolutely critical. We need to learn the lessons of why people were missed out.

“Although this was the 100th person to be identified, the family are currently concerned that he had potential symptoms of the disease for some time but that it was not picked up by the health service.

“What are the lessons to be learned there? Was this the only person for whom that was the case?

“Just because the number of new cases was tailing off, there is still the issue of those people who have had the symptoms over the last few weeks and the NHS needs to make sure it is still on high alert.

“I think we would want someone to take a hard look at how the process for identifying people with legionnaires’ was carried out.”

Health bosses were criticised after it emerged last month that doctors were carrying out legionella tests only on individuals with suspected pneumonia. Patients with signs of infection but no pneumonia were prescribed antibiotics but not tested.

Ms Boyack added: “The first priority has clearly been to get people through this outbreak. Once the outbreak is over, we will urgently need to learn the lessons, both for the family and friends of those affected but also for preventing outbreaks in the future.”

The call comes after the Scottish Government yesterday confirmed there were no new cases of legionella infection. The total number of cases remains at 101, with 53 confirmed cases and 48 suspected cases.

Lothian and Borders Police and the Health and Safety Executive are jointly investigating the sources and cause of the outbreak.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “I am pleased to see that no further cases have emerged. The evidence continues to suggest that the outbreak has peaked.

“NHS Lothian are maintaining high-quality care for patients who remain unwell and investigations continue to identify the source of the outbreak.”