Thursday, 3 April 2008

Hospital 'missed' Butlins woman's fatal illness

A WOMAN employee who died at the Butlins holiday centre, in Minehead, is thought to have contracted a fatal illness which went unnoticed by hospital doctors.
Colleagues of Alexandrea Toth, a 22-year-old Hungarian, found her dead in her bed at the holiday centre last week.
After complaining of feeling unwell the previous day, she went to hospital for checks but was sent back again because she started to feel better.
However, she died in her sleep during the night.
She is believed to have died from a bacterial infection known as group a streptococcus (GAS), which can be linked to meningitis.
It is a bacteria which many people carry in the throat and on their skin, and it can survive long enough to be passed to other people by sneezing, kissing, and skin contact.
Generally, it proves harmless, although in rare cases it causes serious illness and death if it reaches the bloodstream, muscle tissue, or lungs.
Symptoms include fever, aching muscles, localised tenderness of muscles, and redness or inflammation around wounds or open skin.
Medical advice for anybody suffering from such symptoms is to immediately contact their GP.
Other staff at Butlins were offered antibiotics as a precaution following Miss Toth’s death.
However, the Dorset and Somerset Health Protection Unit said staff and visitors at Butlins were not in any danger.
The unit’s director, Dr Sue Bennett, said it was a rare illness with as few as 15 cases a year in Somerset.
She thought it was unlikely to have spread to any friends or colleagues of Miss Toth.
Dr Bennett said: “We have informed the management of Butlins that this is an isolated event and represents no risks to the health of either staff or other guests.”
A spokesman for Butlins said it was a ‘rare and unforeseen tragedy’.
He said Miss Toth was well-liked by staff and her death had upset everybody at the centre.
“Alexandrea was a popular young lady with all members of staff and will be sadly missed,” he said. “We offer our condolences to her family.”

Rescued Hannah already planning second attempt at North Pole record

ADVENTURER Hannah McKeand, who was brought up in Watchet, is planning to make a second attempt at her North Pole record.
Hannah, whose mother Julian Burbury lives in the town, was dramatically rescued from the Arctic icepack last week.
She was flown to safety by the Canadian Royal Air Force after falling into a crevasse and injuring herself so badly that she could not continue.
Hannah had been trying to become the first woman to ski solo and unsupported to the North Pole and she was barely two weeks into the journey when the accident happened.
In an email to The Post as she was being taken for medical treatment, Hannah said: “I am looking forward to getting home and getting healed and starting to plan how to get back on the ice next year for another attempt.
“No, of course I have not been put off, this is what I do.
“I am hoping to be back up here next season. It will be fun.”
Two years ago, Hannah became the quickest person - man or woman - to ski unsupported to the South Pole.

Now, it's 'fat cat' council pensions in the watchdog's spotlight

PENSIONS for local council staff are costing every West Somerset resident a total of £62, a startling new report by local authority watchdogs the Taxpayers’ Alliance has revealed.
Information obtained by the alliance using the Freedom of Information Act shows Somerset County Council increased the money it spent on pensions for staff from £20.64 million in 2005-06 to £24.332 million in 2006-07 - a huge 17.9 per hike in just one year.
The Liberal Democrat-run county’s pensions bill alone was £47 for each person in West Somerset.
On top of this, each resident was forking out another £15 for pensions at cash-crisis West Somerset Council, although its spend actually fell by 13.5 per cent from £615,000 in 2005-06 to £532,000 in 2006-07.
The news comes just two months after The Post reported a Taxpayers’ Alliance investigation which showed the number of County Hall ‘fat cat’ officers earning more than £50,000 a year had skyrocketed by 1,200 per cent from just nine in 1997 to a staggering 111 by last year – costing each West Somerset resident £13.64.
The cost of pensions at neighbouring Taunton Deane Borough Council rose by a huge 46.6 per cent from £1.66 million in 2005-06 to £2,434 million in 2006-07, which amounted to £23 per person.
Sedgemoor District Council increased its pensions funding by 23.2 per cent from £1.6 million to £1.973 million between 2005-06/07, costing each resident £18.
Nationally, the average council now spends more than £10 million on employer pension payments - a 13 per cent increase on the average amount spent in 2005-06.
In 2006-07, local authorities across the country spent a total of £4.6 billion on employer contributions to the Local Government Pension Scheme and unfunded payments and added years benefits to local government employees, teachers and fire
Fighters - representing 21 per cent of council tax revenue or £1 in every £5 of council tax.
TaxPayers’ Alliance chairman Andrew Allum said: “It is unacceptable that ordinary families and pensioners who struggle to pay inflated council tax bills see so much of their money spent on gold-plated council pensions that have all but disappeared in the wider economy.
“With pension costs jumping 13 per cent in one year, the problem is clearly getting worse and requires urgent attention.
“Councils should start correcting their own behaviour immediately, and the Government must face down union pressure and reform the outdated local government pensions scheme as soon as possible.”
Mr Allum said urgent reform of public sector pensions was ‘clearly essential’ in order to reduce the bill to taxpayers, free up money for services, and avoid a serious crisis in public sector pension funding in the future.
He said at present many councils added extra years to an officer’s pension to allow them to retire early.
“In other words, it is possible for certain council employees to retire at age 55 and immediately draw on a pension as if they had retired at age 60,” he said.
Mr Allum said added years benefits was a practice which should cease immediately.
He said at the same time as increasing their spending on pensions for staff, many local authorities were raising council tax and at the same time cutting services such as rubbish collections or care for the elderly.
Local Government Association deputy chief executive John Ransford said: “The TaxPayers’ Alliance appears to be condemning lollipop ladies, bin men, street cleaners, and librarians for getting a pension worthy of the years of service they have given helping local people.
“Councils provide more than 800 different services for local residents and these cannot be delivered by robots or machines.
“The Local Government Pension Scheme recently underwent a radical overhaul, which provides greater value for money to the taxpayer while at the same time recognising the invaluable work that council staff do to make the lives of local people better.
“According to the Treasury, councils are the most efficient and effective part of the public sector, and the independent Audit Commission has recently said that councils are delivering better services than ever before.”

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

EXCLUSIVE: Outdoor market set to return to seafront site

MINEHEAD’S outdoor market looks set to make a return to the town’s seafront, following extensive talks with a local publican.
John Richardson, of the Hobby Horse Inn, on The Esplanade, has revealed to The Post how the town’s outdoor Tuesday and Thursday market is almost certain to be based at his establishment, following talks with market officials.
The news will be a big boost to local traders, who have been calling for it to be relocated nearer the main town centre shopping area.
They had complained of seeing a downturn in their business following the market’s move further out of town to Seaward Way.
Mr Richardson said: “It is 99.9 per cent certain the market will be based here, although there are few areas we still need to sort out.
“The market will be open on the same days, and the format will still be the same, although it will have to downsize a little to fit into the space.
“The gardens and outdoor areas will be used, and use will also be made of the ballroom for those things which are currently indoors.”
The outdoor market had to leave its long-standing site next to Minehead Railway Station last year to make way for a controversial industrial units development being carried out by Somerset County Council.
Mr Richardson said he was ‘only to happy to help’ when approached by market officials who looked at a number of possible sites on which to relocate the market.
He said: “The market people asked if we were interested after looking at a few places, and they thought they could make it work.
“This will be good thing not only for us, but for people all around this area who have wanted the market to move back to this end of the town.”
The move to The Esplanade is likely to take place during Whitsun week at the end of May, or possibly a week earlier in order to allow a trial run before the public holiday.
Market organiser Brian Davies was unavailable for comment as The Post went to press.