News article published: 24th October 2019
There is frustration mounting with the NHS after its supposedly temporary closure of a hospital in Oxfordshire stretched into the fourth year. The facility was closed in 2016 after the water supply in the building returned a positive legionella test. The facility serves an area away from the administrative centre of the county and is relied upon heavily by local people, including some suffering from a terminal illness. Whereas some facilities in the region have returned positive legionella tests and stayed open, this facility has remained closed now for some time, in order to decontaminate the water supply and improve the water system. Closing a building after a positive legionella test is a sensible decision in the interests of public health. However, dealing with the threat of legionella needs a considered and thorough approach, with a qualified Responsible Person to oversee and manage all works. All affected water pipes, outlets and storage tanks, as well as any condensers, air conditioning units or other machinery, should be rigorously disinfected and flushed through, to remove the stagnant water that bacteria inhabit. Buildings that are neglected, like a closed-up clinic, are often left with water stagnating in the water system, which creates a breeding ground for legionella. The bacteria cause Legionnaires’ Disease when inhaled in water vapour. This is a form of pneumonia characterised by chest pains and trouble breathing and requires swift medical attention. The disease more often affects the elderly and those with chronic health conditions, making hospitals and clinics high risk. Duty holders for the facility have a responsibility to patients, staff and members of the public to deal with this threat at all times, by monitoring water systems, putting in place water hygiene protocols, training and equipping staff and preventing bacteria build-up. Hopefully, the clinic in question is not being neglected and is instead being made safe for reopening to the public.