Noxious fumes worsen at Cornwall Regional Hospital

Dr. Christopher Tufton

It is being reported that the situation at Cornwall Regional Hospital is worsening as it grapples to eliminate noxious fumes affecting its operations.
RJR News understands that more floors are being affected.
It was initially reported that the first to third floors were the ones affected. However, Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton has said the problem affecting the ventilation is much more complex than was originally thought.
"The system in question is not only old, but is contaminated in parts by the lining that was used when it was put in place - lining by the fibre glass material - and in an attempt to clean the system, it has made the situation worse in some instances."

"So we have narrowed the options to assessing whether or not the system can be totally sanitised, which is a relatively complex operation because it involves going through the entire length of the system or discarding the existing system and replacing it. That could mean months, not weeks of work, and the implications of that would be and is to relocate a number of departments in the interest of both staff and patient care," the health minister outlined.

He said a team is assessing the problem and will provide a report to the Ministry of Health on the way forward.

Eight departments have so far been relocated at Cornwall Regional to facilitate repairs to the ventilation system. These include the Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Psychiatry and the Physiotherapy units. They have been relocated to other public health facilities.
Dr. Tufton said it could take up to six months to address the odour problem, in which time other hospital units will also have to relocated.

"Between now and this weekend, I think we will be in a better position to give better particulars to the public as to where the new locations are going to be housed and give some estimated time. In my estimation now, based on the discussions, we're looking at three to six months in some instances, given the current situation as we understand it and as we have been advised by the experts," he declared. 
Meanwhile, Dr. Tufton said a team has been established to manage the removal of patients and the administration of health care at alternative locations. The team comprises members of the hospital's management, the Western Regional Health Authority as well as the Ministry of Health.
Dr. Tufton said steps will also be taken to ensure persons are fully aware of the various locations.

"We will use a customer service infrastructure and it may mean bringing on additional persons as well, so that there will always be someone here on site to provide information. It will mean a telephone number or a series of numbers so people can call so that they can get information, and it will mean also signage, (where) signs will be placed at the entrance of the hospital so people will know where these services are being offered, as well as signage at the new location."

He said advertisements will also be utilised.

Hefty bill

In the meantime, the Health Ministry is bracing for a hefty bill as it relocates offices and clinics from the hospital.
Dr. Tufton said based on the magnitude of the problem, it will cost the government millions of dollars to relocate departments and repair or replace the ventilation system which is the source of the noxious fumes.

This could result in the government shelving some of its plans for the health sector.

"You have a major hospital that services a large population, you cannot abandon your responsibility to addressing the problem. So it may mean that a few extra clinics won't get built this year, or some other programme has to be shelved, but we just have to ensure that we restore the programme," the minister insisted. 

Dr. Tufton was speaking at a news conference on Thursday afternoon at Cornwall Regional Hospital.

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