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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 October 2007, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Ambulance boycotts bug hospital
Narrow spaces between beds on ward 8 at Kent and Sussex Hospital
The hospital beds were too close together, the report said
The Kent Air Ambulance has suspended all flights to Maidstone Hospital following a critical report into the NHS trust's handling of a superbug.

The Healthcare Commission said the "poor handling" of Clostridium Difficile at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust resulted in 90 deaths.

The air ambulance service said it had "a duty to patients" to suspend flights until the problem was under control.

The NHS trust said its infection rates were better than average.

In its report, the Healthcare Commission said nurses at the trust were too rushed to wash hands and left patients to lie in their own excrement.

It also found bedpans that had been washed still contained visible traces of faeces.

'Safe and clean'

Beds were also much too close together and patients with infection were being treated on open wards instead of in isolation.

The Kent Air Ambulance Trust said it was "deeply concerned by this damning report".

It said it had written to the NHS trust to seek an urgent meeting with senior clinicians and board members.

Dirty hospital shower

It said its suspension of flights would not apply to the two other hospitals run by the trust, the Kent and Sussex or Pembury hospitals, as they had no helipads.

"During this period patients who would normally be airlifted to Maidstone will be taken to our colleagues at either Medway Maritime Hospital or William Harvey Hospital in Ashford," the statement added.

In response, the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust insisted its hospitals had "some of the best infection rates in the south east and [were] better than average nationally".

"We are safe and we are clean. We have lower rates than some of our neighbouring hospitals in the region," a statement said.

Last Friday, the chief executive of the trust, Rose Gibb, resigned.

'Massive pay-off'

Health Secretary Alan Johnson has told Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust to withhold any severance payment to the former chief executive.

He stepped in amid rumours that Ms Gibb received a large payout.

Mr Johnson said: "I have instructed the trust to withhold any severance payment to the former chief executive of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, pending legal advice."

Campaigners had demanded to know how much she was paid in severance.

Unwashed cups in ward utility room
The report criticised the handling of the infection

According to the trust's annual accounts, Ms Gibb was paid around £150,000 in salary in 2006/07, £5,000 in benefits and around £12,500 in pension.

The trust has refused to disclose how much money she received, saying financial arrangements were confidential.

Geoff Martin of campaign group Health Emergency said of Mr Johnson's intervention: "This is absolutely right and proper.

"A severance payment should never have been considered in the first place."

He added: "I have heard from Maidstone NHS staff this morning that [she] is rumoured to have received a massive pay-off from the trust.

"If it's true, we have a right to know how much taxpayers' money is involved.

"It would fuel the scandal even more if it turns out that senior managers have walked away from this carnage with their pockets stuffed with NHS cash."

Officers are reviewing whether mismanagement by bosses at the three hospitals amounted to a criminal act, Kent Police said.



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The bug hit the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust



SEE ALSO
Bug hospital chief pay withheld
11 Oct 07 |  Health
'The ward smelt of diarrhoea'
11 Oct 07 |  Health

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