Gran fights for life after being struck with legionnaires’

Anne Bennett
Anne Bennett
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A GRANDMOTHER is fighting for her life after being struck down with legionnaires’ disease and airlifted to a hospital 300 miles away for emergency treatment.

Anne Bennett, 60, was rushed to Leicester Royal Infirmary by air ambulance in the early hours of this morning where she will remain in a medically-induced coma to boost her chances of recovery.

Mrs Bennett was sedated and incubated by specialist teams ahead of the 308-mile airlift to Leicester Royal Infirmary, which has specialist facilities for accommodating critically ill patients with induced coma.

The Gorgie Road resident, who lives just 200 yards from North British Distillery – one of the suspected sources of the outbreak – began feeling unwell last week, but her condition deteriorated rapidly and when her organs started to fail yesterday she was airlifted to the specialist unit in Leicester.

Her family today told how Anne had become so weak she could barely lift a glass of water, had started hallucinating and suffered from extreme disorientation.

They slammed Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon for her handling of the deadly outbreak, which has already claimed two lives and left 48 people seriously ill.

Daughter Leanne Rae, 35, said she believed Anne, who has two grandchildren, caught the disease while on one of her daily walks around Gorgie, but claimed her mother had received no warning of the deadly outbreak from the authorities.

“She had seen the news but they were away on holiday for around ten days at the time when Hearts won the cup and she just assumed she had missed all of that. Nothing came through the post and they did not think they were at risk when they got back,” she said.

“I think these leaflets should have been sent out. My dad says there’s a seven-day incubation period so they should have been made aware that there’s still a problem.”

Mrs Bennett’s husband, Frank, 61, an arms industry engineer, was too distraught to speak last night, but Leanne said he was “devastated”.

She said: “Angry is not the word for how the family is feeling. Somebody has to pay. No-one’s saying where it’s coming from and my dad is still walking about Gorgie.

“Do I now have to be thinking that I will be sitting a few days from now in the hospital with him because he’s going to catch it? I just don’t know.”

James Bennett, 62, Mrs Bennett’s brother-in-law, said he believed the companies that run the cooling towers suspected to be possible sources of the outbreak were “hiding things”.

He added: “Sturgeon says [the outbreak] is under control. How is it under control? We are still hearing about cases and now this.”

A spokesman for NHS Lothian said: “The risk of infection is now very, very low as the towers involved were shock dosed with chlorine. The incubation period for this disease is up to 14 days and we have had no cases come outside of that. That would suggest very, very strongly that the source of the outbreak has been dealt with.

“We could not guarantee to get a leaflet to every single house because some people live in high rise buildings and we were not able to use Royal Mail services.

“What we did was distribute 35,000 leaflets over five working days and we also distributed them in bulk to areas of high public footfall and at the entrances to high rise buildings. Electronic versions of the leaflet were also sent out and we have been pushing it through websites and social media.”

Number of cases in outbreak rises to 95

THE total number of Legionnaire’s cases in the Capital outbreak has now risen to 95.

The number of confirmed cases of the disease, which has claimed two lives since the first case was identified at the end of May, has risen to 48, while the NHS is also dealing with 47 suspected cases.

Of those being treated in hospital, three patients are in intensive care and 12 are on general wards. Those diagnosed with the disease are aged between 33 and 85, with more men affected than women.

A total of 20 cases are being treated in the community, 51 have been discharged from hospital and seven are being treated outside the NHS Lothian area.

Investigations into the source of the outbreak are being led by the Health and Safety Executive and Edinburgh City Council.

Learning lessons

THE health committee at Holyrood will today investigate the handling of the legionnaires’ outbreak.

Senior figures from NHS Lothian, the Health and Safety Executive and Edinburgh City Council are due to give evidence to MSPs.

Health committee convener MSP Duncan McNeil said he wants to learn lessons wherever possible.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell, now representing 21 clients affected by the outbreak, said it was eagerly awaiting the session.

Elaine Russell, an illness expert at the firm, said: “We’ve heard from a huge number of people in relation to the outbreak.

“We are very hopeful that the committee session will provide some clear indications in relation to the progress of investigations and, ultimately, offer clear evidence in relation to the potential source of the outbreak.”