Fri | Jul 28, 2017

Cornwall Regional Hospital's ‘old chimney’ under the microscope

Published:Friday | June 30, 2017 | 6:00 AMAdrian Frater

WESTERN BUREAU:

With noxious fumes still plaguing the Cornwall Regional Hospital in St James despite the extensive work being done to fix the problematic ventilation system, an old chimney, thought to be the source of the latest bout of the offensive fumes, is now under the microscope.

"We believe an old chimney, which forms a part of the ventilation system, might be the culprit in this latest outbreak of noxious fumes," a well-placed hospital source told The Gleaner yesterday. "It is the old area that is tied to the system that has not been cleaned."

A team of experts from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) are now at the 400-bed hospital trying to fix the ventilation issues which caused a partial shutdown of the Mt Salem-based facility earlier this year.

Earlier this month, the ventilation issue appeared to be under control when three floors were reopened.

However, on Tuesday, news broke that several nurses, who had seemingly fallen victims to a new bout of noxious fumes, called in sick.

DOWNPLAY ISSUE

In responding to the latest situation, Janet Coore Farr, president of the Nurses Association of Jamaica, told The Gleaner that over the past two weeks, nurses have been complaining of chest tightness, cardiac conditions, headache and swollen eyes, symptoms associated with the harmful fumes.

Initially, Anthony Smikle, the hospital's chief executive officer, had downplayed the seriousness of the latest outbreak, telling The Gleaner that while he was aware of the situation with the nurses, things were normal at the facility.

"The hospital is running normally in terms of the additional arrangements we have made," Smikle told The Gleaner on Tuesday. "There is one department where some of the nurses have not turned up to work, and I am in the process of collecting all the information, but it is nothing like a wide-scale sick-out or anything like that."

However, by mid-afternoon on Wednesday, the Ministry of Health announced the relocating of babies in the special care nursery, citing the noxious fumes as the cause.

Earlier this month, the administration re-opened the fourth, fifth and sixth floors of the Type A hospital after they were given the green light by the PAHO team, which is spearheading the mould remediation programme designed to fix the ventilation issues.

adrian.frater@gleanerjm.com