Legionnaire survivors fight to uncover the truth
SURVIVORS of the Edinburgh legionnaire’s disease outbreak have launched a legal bid for a full public inquiry.
A group of survivors has brought in law firm Thompsons Solicitors to call for a full investigation into how authorities handled the outbreak.
Helen Booth, a mother who suffered from the disease, says she feared there had been a “cover-up”.
Council officials and NHS Lothian are still investigating the cause of the outbreak, though campaigners say they want a public inquiry.
Three men died from the disease and around 100 people had confirmed or suspected cases during the outbreak, which officials said was over last week.
Mrs Booth, a 59-year-old receptionist from Clovenstone in the city, was hospitalised after contracting the disease.
She said: “I really think that someone needs to be punished for what has happened and questions need to be answered.
“We have every right to be able to walk through our town in a safe environment and breathe clean air.
“This is not about money. The families who have lost their fathers and sons-I am fighting for them.
“I feel that there’s been a big cover-up somewhere.
“I was gutted when they declared the outbreak over. I come into work every day and I think, ‘hell’s teeth, am I going to get this disease again?’”
She continued: “”This outbreak has had a devastating effect on me and my family.
“I was in so much discomfort that I feared the worst, and my husband and two daughters watched their wife and mother being taken into hospital not knowing whether I’d ever come home again.
“There’s no sign of anyone in power taking control of the situation.
I’ve had more information from the papers than from the Government.
“Are they just crossing their fingers and hoping the outbreak has run its course?
“I’ve been put at serious risk by the actions or inactions of people whose job it is to make sure we have a safe environment to live in.
“A public inquiry is what the people of Scotland deserve.”
Thomsons Solicitors, which specialises in personal injury cases, said the outbreak highlighted weaknesses in health and safety procedures.
Around a dozen survivors of the disease are being represented by the firm.
Patrick McGuire , a partner at the firm, said: “Considering the serious threat an outbreak of legionnaire’s disease poses, it’s frightening to discover that the laws and regulations relating to risk assessment in the workplaces are woefully insufficient and allow employers to cut corners if they so decide.
“The public are being put in danger and there’s no safety net. This cannot be allowed to continue. Lives are at stake.
“After all the official meetings at Holyrood we are still no further forward. We fully support the calls for an independent public inquiry.”
He continued: “Simply put, this outbreak could and should have been prevented.”
Dr Alison McCallum, director of public health policy at NHS Lothian,
said: “All the evidence suggests that the actions taken by the incident management team were timely and effective and minimised the impact outbreak on the public health.
“Laboratory work is ongoing to try and identify the source conclusively but, as we have said from the start, it may not be possible to do so.
“NHS Lothian would participate fully in a public inquiry should there be one.”
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