Hospital catches legionella infection
WESTMEAD Hospital has been forced to chemically treat its new cooling towers following the detection of legionella.
It can be revealed details of the legionella detection were raised at a meeting of the Western Sydney Local Health District board in February.
The discovery has triggered calls from state opposition health spokesman Walt Secord for the department to reveal the locations of legionnaires’ disease cases.
The latest NSW Health figures show there were 11 cases of the disease in April.
Since January, there have been 40 cases, including two so far this month. It is not clear if the detection of legionella at Westmead was responsible for any of the cases.
Westmead hospital general manager Andrew Newton told the meeting the legionella was detected in the new cooling towers on top of the pathology building at Westmead.
It is understood the cooling towers were only installed last year and form part of the redevelopment of the hospital.
“The Board was assured all routine maintenance and testing had been undertaken since installation,” Mr Newton said. “The towers have been cleaned and chemically treated and the results are now within normal parameters. These will be closely monitored.”
Mr Secord said NSW Health data confirmed 2016 was the worst year on record for legionnaires’ disease with a record 125 cases — a more than 25 per cent increase over 2015. Mr Secord said the community had a right to know the locations of the cases.
“It is customary to reveal the location of the infections,” he said. “This is important because if someone shows symptoms then they can seek urgent medical advice.”
Legionnaires’ disease is a bacterial infection of the lungs.
Australian outbreaks have been connected to contaminated air conditioning systems.