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Surgeon's £4 million compensation claim against hospital
A SURGEON who claims he caught pneumonia while working in dirty operating theatres at Basildon Hospital is claiming up to £4million compensation.
Arjuna Weerasinghe, 50, a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon, claims conditions at Basildon Hospital were so bad one of his patients died because of a lack of equipment.
He also alleges medical instruments were dirty and there was a shortage of surgical masks.
He told an east London employment tribunal he contracted antibiotic resistant pneumonia while working in operating theatres at the hospital’s renowned Cardiothoracic Centre, which he said hadn’t been deep cleaned for years.
Mr Weerasinghe claims he was sacked for blowing the whistle after repeatedly raising concerns about poor standards at the hospital, which is currently in special measures.
However, the hospital trust says Mr Weerasinghe was dismissed last November after bosses said he had “misled” them over his illness.
Mr Weerasinghe said: “Instruments were not always available, often had their sterility impaired and inordinate delays were routine when instruments or equipment were required during the operation.
“This initial impression soon turned to serious concern when I realised there were repeated health care failings that affected patients’ well-being.
“I believe my public interest disclosures regarding the unavailability of appropriate equipment and material in this case were a major influence in the decision to investigate and then dismiss me.”
Mr Weerasinghe said one of his patients, known only as RT, died in August 2011 because the hospital’s operating theatre was not properly stocked with equipment. During RT’s surgery the forceps being used in the patient’s chest allegedly broke. Later, when the same patient suffered a bleed, the surgeon asked for an absorption aid, only to be told there wasn’t one available.
RT later died while Mr Weerasinghe was on holiday.
The surgeon said he felt the patient would not have died if the correct equipment was on hand.
Mr Weerasinghe said since joining the trust in 2008, he had raised several concerns about standards at the centre, including instances of power cuts and theatre time being wasted.
He said there were “repeated health care failings on a regular basis” and senior nursing staff were too “frightened” to raise their worries.
The surgeon said he felt his concerns about poor care at the hospital were “ruffling the feathers” of its management.
He claims he was told formal letters expressing his concerns were not likely to be a “good way forward”.
He went off sick after contracting pneumonia in December 2011, the tribunal was told.
Mr Weerasinghe alleged the operating theatre he spent three days working in had not been regularly cleaned for more than three years.
He said he informed the hospital 11 times he felt he had picked up the infection at work because it was a drug-resistant bacteria – the type that evolves in hospitals.
Mr Weerasinghe claims trust bosses used his illness as an excuse to get rid of him because he was whistle- blowing.
He was dismissed for gross misconduct last November after the trust found he had misled them over his illness and refused to meet and discuss his condition.
Mr Weerasinghe, of Canary Wharf, East London, is now suing the trust for unfair dismissal, disability discrimination and whistle blowing.
Basildon Hospital declined to comment until the hearing concludes.
The tribunal continues.
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