Legionnaires’ Disease Victims Still Desperate For Answers As Anniversary Approaches

Experts Representing Victims Call For Authorities To End Confusion Over Information


By Rob Dixon

Lawyers investigating the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Edinburgh on behalf of 35 victims and their families are still concerned about the lack of information from the investigating authorities, as the first anniversary of the start of the problems approaches.

Victims of the outbreak, which killed three people last year, instructed lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate exactly what happened and provide answers as to how they came to be affected by the disease.  Many still suffer from breathing difficulties and a loss of energy.

Last December Irwin Mitchell was forced to instruct its own specialist report into the outbreak after repeated calls for the authorities to release information fell on deaf ears. The report, which will be completed shortly, is intended to identify the probable sources and parties potentially responsible for the outbreak so that the law firm’s clients can gain access to justice.

Elaine Russell, partner and specialist injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the victims, said: “Over one year on and there have still been no definitive statements from the authorities explaining how this outbreak happened, despite it affecting over 100 people and killing three.

“Our own specialist is due to report back shortly and then we can really help our clients to move on with their lives and seek funds to help cover their loss of earnings and any treatments they may need to help with their ongoing symptoms.

“It has been a nightmare for many of our clients over the past year. They were caught completely unaware by the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak, yet have received very little information about what went wrong, and no apology for what happened.”

Retired John McLaren of Stenhouse Avenue in Edinburgh, is believed to be the first person diagnosed with Legionnaires’ Disease when the outbreak began last June.

He used to walk his dog and walk to his daughter’s home in the Gorgie area every day but since suffering from Legionnaires’ Disease he has had to get the bus and cannot walk as far as he used to.

For the first few months after contracting the disease the 64-year-old suffered pain in his back and stomach and had a shortness of breath. Although these symptoms have now passed he still suffers from pains in his joints especially his knees.

John said: “I’m just so incredibly frustrated by the lack of information. Right from the start there seems to have been a wall of silence. There is plenty of gossip about who is responsible but none of the authorities have ever given us real information.

“Thankfully Irwin Mitchell are pushing and pushing on our behalf so that we can get answers about what happened. I hate to think about something similar happening again but how can we learn lessons if no information is being shared?”

John felt unwell with flu like symptoms leading up to 30th May 2012 and when his family saw him on that day he was very confused because he had a very high temperature and had not eaten or drunk.  They phoned an ambulance which took John to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.

He said: “I believe that I was the first person to be diagnosed with legionnaires.  My daughter told me that as I was the first person to be diagnosed that the hospital could not start treatment for 24 hours as they didn’t have the correct antibiotics. It was absolutely terrifying as I used to be really fit and active.

“I spent three weeks in hospital and 10 days of that was in the Intensive Care Unit. I then had to stay with my daughter for two weeks so that she could care for me and I had to use a stick to help me walk.”

Elaine Russell said: “It is imperative that information about how this incident happened is shared with those affected as soon as possible. They have a right to know what happened to them and their loved ones. It is also crucial that all organisations involved learn from this so that any potential outbreaks in future can be prevented.

“There are strict health and safety rules in order to prevent Legionnaires’ Disease from infecting people, but sadly in this case something went horribly wrong, with fatal consequences.”

Irwin Mitchell first called for a Public Inquiry into the spread of Legionnaires’ Disease in August last year saying that it should include a full examination of matters such as the cause of the outbreak, the adequacy of preventative steps and a review of the investigation process as well as an assessment of the co-ordination of the various regulatory bodies involved.

The law firm is also representing over 20 people affected by an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Stoke-on-Trent in Summer 2012.

Elaine added: “It is immensely important that the response to and actions taken during the recent Legionnaires’ outbreaks are carefully assessed. Our requests for a Public Inquiry and for basic information are to ensure that lessons are learned from the problems of the past and to ensure adequate steps are being taken to protect the health and wellbeing of the Scottish public.”

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