Lawyer claims Ely woman may have contracted asbestos-related cancer when she worked as a nurse

PUBLISHED: 07:00 01 February 2019

Jemima Abraham, aged 76 and who lives in Ely, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July last year. She worked at High Wycombe Hospital as a nurse from 1977 until 2002. Mrs Abraham’s late husband Robert also began working at the hospital shortly after she joined, as a fitter and maintenance man. Picture: FAMILY.

Jemima Abraham, aged 76 and who lives in Ely, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July last year. She worked at High Wycombe Hospital as a nurse from 1977 until 2002. Mrs Abraham’s late husband Robert also began working at the hospital shortly after she joined, as a fitter and maintenance man. Picture: FAMILY.

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An Ely woman who was refused information on whether she contracted a deadly asbestos-related cancer at the hospital where she worked as a nurse has received an apology from the hospital trust

Mrs Jemima Abraham, 76, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July last year. She worked at the hospital as a nurse from 1977 until 2002.

High Wycombe Hospital is now facing a claim by the former employee that she contracted the disease, which is caused by breathing in asbestos dust, while she and her husband worked there.

Now her daughters, Sheona Ramsay-Edwards and Heather Abraham, are demanding to know why she wasn’t protected by her employer.

Mrs Abraham’s lawyer states that the Buckingham Healthcare NHS Trust refused a formal freedom of information request on the grounds of ‘commercial confidentiality’ and the trust have since admitted they “made a mistake”.

A spokesman for the trust said: “We were very saddened to hear about Mrs Abraham’s illness.

“We can only apologise that we made a mistake in not responding in the correct manner to the initial Freedom of Information Request we received from her solicitors.

“We are undertaking an internal review to ensure an error of this kind does not occur again.

“We take our responsibilities for the health and safety of our patients, their visitors and our staff extremely seriously.

“We would like to reassure Mrs Abraham that we will provide whatever support we can to her and her family, including providing any relevant documentation or site plans we have on record that may help with her claim.”

Ms Abraham’s lawyers claim that if she did come into contact with asbestos during her time at the hospital, it could mean other staff as well as patients might also still be at risk.

Her lawyers say the hospital has refused to disclose what problems it might have with asbestos.

Mrs Abraham’s late husband Robert also began working at the hospital shortly after she joined, as a fitter and maintenance man.

The family lawyers claim he may have brought the deadly dust home on his working clothes. Mrs Abraham used to wash her husband’s overalls, which she says would be covered in asbestos dust and needed brushing before they could be put in the washing machine.

The use of asbestos is now prohibited, but during the 70s and 80s it was widely used in cladding and insulation. Mrs Abraham may have a legitimate claim against her former employers if her lawyer can show that the workplace was contaminated by asbestos at the time.

Mrs Abraham’s lawyer is asbestos specialist Martyn Hayward of Ashtons Legal.

Under a Freedom of Information request, Mr Hayward asked the trust for details of its asbestos inspections and surveys.

He said: “My client has suffered an extremely serious illness which can only have come from being in contact with asbestos.

“We know there is asbestos in the hospital building and that it may not have been in good repair several years ago.

“It’s likely that the illness was caused by my client having worked in the hospital for 26 years, and others may still be at risk.”

The late Mr Abraham also worked at Rank Hovis McDougal, now Premier Foods, in the boiler house at their research park on the Cressex Industrial Estate.

He may have brought asbestos home on his work clothes for Mrs Abraham to wash, and a similar claim has also been intimated against them.

Mr Hayward would like any of the couple’s former colleagues at either employer and who may be able to provide further information to get in touch on 01223 431112 or at Martyn.Hayward@ashtonslegal.co.uk.

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