TAMPA — About a half dozen patients in the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital Spinal Cord Injury Center had to be moved and a hallway sealed off after mold was discovered in an area near the patient care section in May, hospital officials say.
The mold was found during repairs after a pipe burst in March.
“As a precaution we relocated the patients until the work was complete and retests confirmed no microbial growth,” said Kateriniea Littles, a Haley spokeswoman.
The patients were moved for about three weeks, said Littles. The work on the first floor of the Spinal Cord Injury Center egan May 28 and is expected to wrap up in the middle of August, Littles said.
The disruption led at least one patient to complain to Congress.
Problems began March 21, Littles said, when a half-inch hot water line ruptured in the mechanical space of the new polytrauma center. The center was under construction at the time.
The ruptured line cause water to flow into the first floor of the Spinal Cord Injury Center, Littles said, with most of the damage limited to sections of the first floor that contain the VA Internet Café, office spaces, storage rooms, conference rooms, locker rooms and a hallway.
Archer Western DeMaria, the general contractor on the polytrauma center project, called in a company called DRIRITE to perform initial drying services, Littles said. DRIRITE conducted an inspection of each room to identify the scope of the water damaged areas using infrared camera technology.
Archer Western DeMaria then hired Erickson’s Drying Services Corp., a licensed contractor for water damage and mold remediation, which brought in a certified industrial hygienist, Littles said.
The cleanup effort has been extensive.
Temporary containment walls were built and special filters and dehumidifiers were used. In addition, all heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system air intakes and supply vents were isolated.
Crews also removed sheetrock, insulation, cove base, and other building materials. Vacuuming and disinfection followed.
“The remediation was only considered complete if the samples were negative for microbial growth,” she said.
Rick Ballou, who was hospitalized with spine problems, complained to U.S. Rep. Richard Nugent that the cleanup work was difficult on patients.
“SCI Ward B was shut down on Wednesday July 9, 2014 and all patients were moved into the main hospital in the middle of the night; I know this because I traveled by it every day in my wheelchair,” wrote Ballou, 66, who lives in Spring Hill.
“The 10th of July there was a notice up on the closed door that Ward B was closed indefinitely. ... As one section of the newly-erected floors above us were dealt with for water damage/leakage onto our area, they would shut off those rooms that needed repair.”
The process was inconvenient, wrote Ballou, who served in the Navy between 1966 and 1969.
“Mostly it was rooms like the coffee cantina where we got our morning coffee,” he said in his letter. “That really was a loss to those of us who enjoy coffee. I had to get my wife to bring me the equipment and coffee so I could make it myself. “
Last week, in a statement to the Tribune, Nugent said his office has contacted Haley officials about the mold problems and other issues raised by Ballou. Ballou is meeting with hospital medical personnel to discuss concerns about his medical treatment.
“I haven’t seen an answer to the inquiry I sent to the VA yet, but mold in any hospital is clearly a serious concern,” Nugent said in a statement to the Tribune on Friday. “If Haley says they are remediating it, then obviously that’s the right answer, but whatever the case, I certainly intend to circle back and see that they follow through.”