Wed | Nov 25, 2020

New noxious fumes concerns at Cornwall Regional Hospital

Published:Wednesday | February 21, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas
Dr Jacqueline Bisasor McKenzie



The Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA) said no cause has been identified for the fresh outbreak of noxious fumes at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in St James, which resurfaced earlier this week when the Nurses’ Association of Jamaica (NAJ) raised concerns about its impact on its members.

According to the affected nurses, the sixth to eighth floors of the 400-bed facility are the areas being impacted by the fumes. The noxious fumes has been an issue at the hospital since last year January, resulting in the relocation of several services.

Earlier this week, Dr Jacqueline Bisasor McKenzie, acting chief medical officer at the hospital, said the matter was under investigation and that a meeting was planned with the staff.

Yesterday, Dr Ken-Garfield Douglas, WRHA’s regional director, told The Gleaner that nothing had taken place at Cornwall Regional, including during the ongoing restoration work at the 10-storey facility, which would account for the complaints reported by hospital staff earlier this week.


“There’s an upsurge in the staff’s indicating that they are having more symptoms than they were experiencing up to two weeks ago, but there haven’t been any adverse events that have taken place at the hospital to indicate contamination. So it is baffling us as to what might be the cause,” said Douglas.

“It was the team from UNOPS (United Nations Office for Project Services) that did the assessment, and they have been there for 10 months, providing the technical work. I am not at all saying that the staffers are not experiencing what they’re describing as new or increased symptoms, it is just that we do not have an explanation for it.”

Douglas further noted that plans to relocate the CRH’s boiler, and to perform other maintenance work on the hospital’s upper floor are progressing as scheduled.

“We are continuing our preparation to remove the boiler out of the CRH’s basement, and that work is supposed to start on Saturday. We are presently completing the design for the upper floor, and doing the electrical, plumbing and mechanical assessments, to see what needs to be done,” said Douglas.

In drawing public attention to the matter, NAJ president Carmen Johnson called for a risk assessment to be conducted at the hospital to make a determination of the impact of the fumes on staff and patients.

“We are not taking the due diligence to recognise that what is happening is affecting them (the nurses). We need to look at the patients also. Do we need to keep them in these buildings or do we need to do a risk assessment to see if what is happening in the building g is also affecting their health?" said Johnson.