Legionella bacteria found at Sir Charles Girdner Hospital after patient died

The discovery of Legionella bacteria at Sir Charles Girdner Hospital in Perth resulted in 16 rooms being treated for the bacteria and two patients receiving preventive antibiotics.

A deceased patient, who was receiving palliative care, was found to be infected with Legionella pneumophila during a postmortem examination.

A North Metropolitan Health spokeswoman said in a statement that it cannot be concluded that the person died as a direct result of infection with Legionella pneumococcus.

“The hospital does not receive the autopsy report and therefore it cannot determine the extent of Legionella’s contribution,” she added.

After the infection was confirmed, water filters were installed in two rooms in which the patient was receiving care.

Initial samples showed a positive result for Legionella pneumpohila bacteria in those rooms and a hot water rinse was performed.

One of the rooms reopened but the other remained closed.

The hospital then treated 14 more rooms that had to be closed for two hours, but all have since reopened.

“Following the immediate application and treatment of bacterial filters in the two rooms, along with a comprehensive inpatient review, the risks to staff and patients were deemed extremely low,” a North Metropolitan Health Services spokeswoman said.

“However, as a precaution, two patients who were considered high-risk on the same ward were informed and agreed to receive a prophylactic antibiotic.”

The spokeswoman said it was not uncommon to find some bacteria in the hospital water supply and Sir Charles Girdner was regularly tested.

Legionella bacteria can lead to the deadly disease Legionnaires’ disease.

Health Minister “disappointed” was not informed

Health Minister Roger Cook has denied opposition allegations that he ignored the issue when it was raised in Parliament last week.

Washington State Health Secretary Roger Cook appears pensive as he listens to Mark McGowan.
Roger Cook says he is “disappointed” that hospital management did not alert him to the detection of the bacteria.(ABC News: James Carmody)

Mr Cook said at the time: “I have not received any briefing as to whether there is any concern about hospital water at Sir Charles Gardner Hospital.”

In a statement released Thursday evening, Mr Cook said he appreciates the hospital has taken measures to reduce risks to patients.

But he criticized the fact that he was not informed of the issue until after it was raised in Parliament.

“I have written to the chair of the North Metropolitan Health Board for this,” he said.

β€œIt is necessary to identify such important matters and bring them to my attention.”

In a statement, North Metropolitan Health Services Chairman David Forbes told ABC he acknowledged Cook’s disappointment.

“[I] He deeply regrets not being properly informed of the situation in a timely manner.”

“I intend to address the Minister’s concerns with him.”

A call for better access to post-mortem reports

Mr. Cook also said the incident highlighted the need for doctors to access post-mortem reports.

“This also highlights the troubling issue of hospitals and physicians not being able to access autopsies of patients,” he said.

“I’ve spoken with the attorney general about this and we are in strong agreement that it needs to be changed.

“Attorney General advances legislative changes to forensic law to allow autopsy results to be submitted to doctors and hospitals so they know the cause of death.”

The opposition’s health spokeswoman, Libby Matam, said she was still concerned about the contamination.

“Our thoughts are with the concerned family,” Ms. Matam said.

But Mr Cook said he was assured there were no ongoing risks.

He said: “I appreciate that Sir Charles Girdner Hospital took immediate action to reduce any potential risk to patients from the Corps’ contaminated water.”

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