Care home at centre of Legionnaires’ death cleared

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A CORONER has cleared a care home of any wrongdoing despite confirming a resident who died of Legionnaires’ Disease probably contracted it in the building.

Maurice Cummins, 64, was the second resident to suffer with the bug while living in Hartlepool’s West View Lodge care home, in West View Road.

The first man, aged 69, survived the illness, but Mr Cummins tragically died on December 16 last year after also suffering with pneumonia, flu and chronic obtrusive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

The Mail reported at the time of Mr Cummins’ death that health protection chiefs launched an investigation at the home and tests proved negative.

Hartlepool coroner Malcolm Donnelly supported their findings, but said the “incubation period”, which is the period when the disease develops, must have taken place at the home.

At the close of an inquest into Mr Cummins death, he said: “I think people are safe in the nursing home. The staff contacted the emergency services when they had to, made sure that procedures were followed and that all systems were flushed and chlorinated. It has presumably come from somewhere in or around the home, but it seems we will never know.

“I’m satisfied all the appropriate agencies have done their job and that West View Lodge nursing home is the last place to want something like this to happen. They have an incentive to ensure the place is exemplary.”

Mr Donnelly ruled Mr Cummins died of natural causes.

Retired security guard Maurice, who had one daughter, lived in the town’s Arch Court, on the Central Estate, before a severe infection in his leg led to it being amputated.

He also developed breathing problems and after a stay in hospital he became a resident at West View Lodge.

Divorcee Maurice had been rushed to hospital at the end of November last year with chronic breathing problems and was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ Disease.

Medics battled desperately for three weeks to save his life, but he never recovered.

Mr Donnelly added: “Legionella is a bacteria and there are strict procedures that have to be followed.

“It tends to propagate itself through water cooling or air conditioning systems. When there is a case everything is flushed out with chlorine and that was done back in August and the Health Protection Agency says that was done again in Mr Cummins’ case.

“Both times tests were carried out before the cleaning took place but no sign of the disease was found. The people with the expertise on this matter did not find anything amiss.”

The Health Protection Agency, Hartlepool Borough Council’s Environmental Health Department and NHS Tees were all involved in investigations.

Town doctors, staff members, residents and residents’ relatives were also written to notifying them of the circumstances surrounding the two illnesses.

A spokesman for Four Seasons, which owns the care home, said: “Staff at Westview Care Home who cared for Morris Cummings are deeply saddened by his death.

“The comfort and well-being of residents are always our first priority and we are constantly vigilant of all aspects of health and hygiene procedures.”