A WIRRAL Care home was told to pay out £40,000 after it “failed to manage the risk” of elderly residents catching a potentially lethal form of pneumonia.
Mother Redcaps Care Home was prosecuted after failing to respond to an improvement notice issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regarding the risk of legionella bacteria building up in their water systems.
The legionella bug can cause serious illnesses, most infamously Legionnaire’s Disease to which the elderly are particularly vulnerable.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that HSE inspectors visited the home – which employs 35 staff and houses up to 51 residents – on Lincoln Drive, Wallasey in November 2011.
They asked for their risk assessment into legionella bacteria and were told there wasn’t one.
Subsequent checks revealed that regular notes of the boiler temperature were not being taken, there was no schematic of the water system required for tracing any potential outbreak and that temperatures between 20ºC and 45ºC were “commonplace”.
James McKeon, prosecuting, said: “That was a concern because that is the temperature in which legionella can multiply.”
The home was issued an improvement notice but despite being given two deadline extensions the HSE were not satisfied with their progress and began a prosecution.
Mother Redcaps’ director and principal shareholder Dr Amir Matta, who operates seven care homes in the north west, pleaded not guilty to failing to respond to an improvement notice and requested a crown court trial but he changed his mind and the company admitted the charges on Wednesday.
Despite their actions leading to a “risk” there was no evidence legionella was present in the building.
Mr McKeon added: “It has never been the prosecution case against the defendant that any residents or members of staff were exposed to legionella bacteria, furthermore there is no evidence there has ever been a case of Legionnaire’s Disease at Mother Redcaps or any of Dr Matta’s care homes.”
Judge Graham Morrow QC ordered the company pay a fine of £6,525 and prosecution costs of £33,475, totalling £40,000.
He said: “They have learned a salutary lesson which in the event will be an expensive one.”
HSE Inspector Phil Redman said: “While there is no evidence that residents or members of staff were exposed to legionella bacteria, there was a clear and inexcusable failure to properly assess and control the risk.
“Elderly people and those with poor health are particularly susceptible to Legionnaire’s disease, so the company should have done more to assess and control the risks, thus making sure lives weren’t put in danger.
“We gave Mother Redcaps several opportunities to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment. This case should act as a warning to firms if they ignore enforcement notices.”