Dialysis crisis after St Albans hospital water cut off

Staff from the Renal Dialysis unit at St Albans City Hospital are congratulated by the Mayor of St A

Staff from the Renal Dialysis unit at St Albans City Hospital are congratulated by the Mayor of St Albans Geoff Harrison for their handling of an incident when a water pipe burst, stopping dialysis machines from working. L-R Candi Alcaraz, Olivia Donohue, Rijo Kavanal, Betty Sunil and Arnold Canares - Credit: Archant

About 40 patients with kidney failure were affected when life-saving dialysis machines failed at St Albans Hospital as a result of the water supply being cut off at the weekend.

But dedicated nursing staff have won praise from both a patient and St Albans Mayor Cllr Geoff Harrison for their “exceptional service” during the crisis, as they quickly reorganised vital treatment.

The patient, who did not wish to be named, explained that on Saturday morning dialysis machines could not be used because the water supply had failed.

Dialysis is a form of treatment which filters blood to rid the body of harmful waste, extra salt and water.

A West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust spokeswoman has apologised for delays experienced by patients affected by a damaged water pipe supplying part of St Albans Hospital, including the dialysis unit.

She explained: “Our estates team was alerted to the low pressure at 8am, and began an immediate investigation and remedial work.

“The pipe was repaired and back in action by 11am. In the interim, water was supplied to the unit by an existing storage tank.”

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A spokesman for the East and North Herts NHS Trust which provides dialysis in St Albans, one of its four satellite units, said the disruption occurred when 41 patients were due to be dialysed.

He said: “Of these, we were able to transfer nine to our other satellite units.

“This left 32 at St Albans who all had their dialysis later that day when the water supply was restored.”

When questioned about hygiene control, he said the trust has emergency protocols to ensure standards are maintained, including the use of alcohol gel for hand washing.

The patient who contacted the Herts Advertiser to praise the “largely unsung” nursing staff said, “no water means the machines cannot work”. He said that despite appointments being “wrecked,” nurses showed “remarkable initiative” to ensure all patients were treated.

Staff worked “for up to 14 hours” and “the last young nurse was still there, cheerful and courteous like the rest, at 9pm.”

He was so impressed with their response that he asked the Mayor to pay tribute to them.

Cllr Harrison said: “When I heard how well staff had coped with the problems, I wanted to congratulate them in person.

“They did a wonderful job in ensuring that patients continued to receive the care they needed.”