Andes health center re-opening soon

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By Cheryl Petersen
The Andes Health Center closed its doors temporarily on July 21 because of mold contamination in the building. A water leak, which caused the problem, has been fixed and the center is expected to reopen the week of August 4.
“The mold species found inside (the building) are the same species of mold found in the environment,” said Karen Huxtable-Hooker, Corporate Communications, Bassett Healthcare Network in Cooperstown. “The mold we have found is not ‘black mold.’  No black mold has been identified on any sampling completed by the environmental firms doing the remediation work.  What we have found in our sampling are a variety of common indoor/outdoor mold.”
The Andes Health Center, located at 245 Lower Main Street, has been open one year. The building is owned by O’Connor Hospital in Delhi, an affiliate of the Bassett Healthcare Network, based in Cooperstown.

Initial findings
The diagnosis of a mold problem was made the middle of June. Attempts were made by the O’Connor Facilities Department to mitigate the problem, however, repeated complaints continued and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) became involved to ensure the safety of the Andes staff.
“Bassett will be responding to the OSHA inquiry within the time frame that OSHA requested,” said Huxtable-Hooker. “A nurse practitioner from Employee Health is conducting health assessments of Andes staff.”
A meeting between the Andes staff and Bassett official was planned for yesterday (July 29) to review the test results. A member of the Andes Center staff confirmed the meeting but made no other comment.
“Making sure the building is safe, and properly returned to service, is a very important matter and Bassett takes this very seriously,” said Huxtable-Hooker.
It’s been determined that the mold grew due to a water leak. “The problem was more challenging than it first appeared because of the nature of the leak being in a wall and very small, a drip around a fitting in the supply line,” said Huxtable-Hooker. “It was actually buried behind a permanently fixed panel built into the lower wall system.”
Bassett became involved on July 21. “It took a long time for the O’Connor staff to find the leak because it was hidden entirely from view,” said Huxtable-Hooker. Within 24 hours Bassett moved patient care and staff to our Delhi facility.” All patients are being redirected to Delhi O’Connor hospital for care.
Bassett’s report on the Andes Health Center situation as of July 28 states: The area impacted is a relatively small eight feet by eight feet space primarily used by staff; an industrial hygienist who is an expert on indoor environmental problems, including mold detection, containment and removal, is assessing, testing and directing the corrective measures undertaken by the contractors doing the remediation work; the work area is being kept under negative pressure during the restoration to continue to reduce any residual airborne mold spores and remediation at the center has included removal of all wall and flooring material that was damaged, containment of the area, and the use of negative air pressure and High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration to remove any mold.
“Also, Eisenbach & Ruhnke Engineering told Bassett that remediation was successful and air samples have come back fine; the mold species found inside are the same species of mold found in the environment. Mold spores are commonly prevalent in the environment and in building materials in general and it’s important to understand that for most people mold is a respiratory irritant. Removal from the irritant allows symptoms to resolve.”
“We are planning to reopen for patient care at the Andes Center the week of August 4, depending on progress of reconstruction and staffing,” said Huxtable Hooker. “While we regret the inconvenience to patients, the top priority is patient and employee safety, which is why upon learning of the situation in Andes, Bassett moved patient care and staff off site pending a full assessment and resolution of the issues. As soon as we are clear that we have resolved the problem and know that it is a safe environment for patients to be seen and employees to work, we will reopen the Andes Health Center.”