Thursday, November 6, 2003
Carmel on the Case: Mold At Jackson Memorial Hospital Facility
Tonight a Seven News Special Report that raises serious questions about a South Dade nursing home owned by Jackson Memorial Hospital. Investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero has learned the facility has asbestos and toxic mold. Her special report - Contaminated Care.
(WSVN) -- Perdue Medical Center off Old Cutler Road is a nursing home and re-hab center with about 150 patients.
150 patients living in a facility that has toxic mold and asbestos.
But they're not the only ones who may be at risk.
Construction workers charge they have been exposed to a toxic environment.
Gordon Myers says, "I personally think it's not a good place to be."
Gordon Myers is the president of Lear Associates - a plantation construction company.
His workers took these pictures inside Perdue.
They show mold growing unchecked in the unused west wing of the facility.
They also show mold growing in rooms occupied by patients shortly before this wallboard was torn down.
Carmel asks, "Do you do mold remediation?"
Gordon says, "No. We're a general contractor."
Lear was working on a project to upgrade the sprinkler and fire alarm systems throughout the facility.
It had samples tested and found toxic molds known to cause allergic reactions and suspected of causing illnesses.
Gordon says, "I have older relatives. And after seeing some of the rooms that they were pulling people out of the day before we went in, I would not want those relatives in there."
Lear also says it was told the mold problem was confined to the west wing only.
Lear Vice PresidentCharlie Rollinson says, "When it got to be ridiculous we just said we're not exposing our people to this anymore."
But mold isn't the only issue.
A sub-contractor says workers were exposed to deadly asbestos.
The cancer causing fiber was in ceiling tiles moved around when the sprinkler company was surveying the job.
Tony Marino ofFirepak says, "But no one told anyone that this was an asbestos environment and an unsafe working area or condition."
Tony Marino and seven of his employees worked in the area without protection.
He says, "Then they brought in the clean up crew and these guys show up wearing moon suits and breathing apparatus."
At JMH - constructions experts - doctors - a county attorney and a public relations expert - all told me the health issues --- are not valid and that this is all about a contract dispute.
JMH Construction ManagerPeter Vlaum says, "There was an asbestos report available that they never asked for."
"How would you know to ask for it though?" asks Carmel.
"Well, as a contractor its part of your job - standard practice - to do things like that."
This is that report.
Written almost two years before the construction project started --- it identifies asbestos in ceiling tiles and recommends before renovation "...They be properly removed by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor."
Tony says,"The asbestos report has to be issued before the job is bid because many companies will not work in an asbestos environment.
Carmel asks, "Would you have done that?"
Tony answers "No."
JMH allowed us to see part of the Perdue Facility.
It insists this is a safe place.
JHM's Public Relations representativeConchita Ruiz-Topinka says, "Our patients have been the top priority every step of the way."
JMH maintains there have been no illnesses among staff or patients at Perdue and that the clean-up has been proper.
"We went above and beyond what was expected to make sure we followed all the procedures and declare the area safe," says Ruiz-Topinka.
But we were not allowed inside the west wing, where there has been no mold clean-up.
Carmel tries to ask: "But why would you let mold grow in a facility that--"
"Well, we've sealed it," says Ruiz-Topinka. "It has been an abandoned part of the facility since, I think '88."
JMH says this is all about a contract that is being terminated, but Lear insists it's a case of contaminated care.
Rollinson says, "And at the end of the day we're told to put on suits and respirators and go in to do our regular work but yet it's a safe facility."
The contractors are convinced patients could be at risk. The hospital is convinced no one is at risk. It's a dispute that could end up in court.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: