Deadly bacteria closes Launceston hospital
A Cornish hospital has been shut down after traces of a potentially deadly bacteria were found in two locations.
Launceston Hospital will remain closed for four weeks after a routine inspection of the water system uncovered the legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires' Disease.
A total of ten patients who were being treated at the hospital run by the private firm Peninsula Community Health (PCH) have now been moved.
Janet Cameron, treasurer of the Launceston Hospital League of Friends, said the action would have serious implications for the town.
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"The hospital is very well used within the community and its closure will cause problems for families if patients have been moved to places like Liskeard.
"Hopefully it will be sorted as soon as possible."
The legionella bacteria can cause Legionnaires' Disease, a potentially lethal illness affecting the respiratory system. The bacteria thrives in warm water and many outbreaks have been traced back to water towers and even poorly maintained hot tubs.
Britain's worst outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease was at Stafford District Hospital in 1985, when bacteria present in the air conditioning infected 175 people and caused 28 deaths.
A spokesman for PCH said the bug was discovered in two locations during a routine inspection on Friday and that it posed a "minimal risk" to patients and staff. No regulations have been breached, he added.
Kevin Baber, chief executive of the not-for-profit social enterprise, said immediate action was taken.
He said: "I would like to reassure patients and staff that we have taken this decisive action to ensure public safety.
"While we acknowledge the short-term disruption, we are confident that closing Launceston General Hospital for a short period of time will allow us to resolve the situation going forwards."
PCH will now conduct a "robust" disinfection of the water system and a major refurbishment of the heating and water system.
During the hospital's closure, a pre-planned £100,000 upgrade of its plumbing and heating system will take place. This will be followed by the disinfection programme in which a high concentration of chlorine will be flushed through the whole water system.
The hospital will reopen following testing to ensure patient and staff safety and when a clear water quality reading is confirmed.
PCH said six of the ten in-patients had been transferred to other community hospitals. The hospital's minor injuries unit would remain closed for the duration while anyone with an out-patient appointment would be contacted in person.