St. John’s Hospital has not only put the “cart before the horse,” they have put their own stubborn and misguided time table for the closure of the Hospital before our own communities’ safety. St. John’s president T. Michael Murray has spent a tremendous amount of Ventura County\\’s money, time and efforts to set a time table for an unproven, controversial remediation process without the necessary registrations and/or state government’s approvals. Setting in place specific hospital closure dates, coordinating with our neighboring hospitals, meeting with health, safety and ambulatory services and transferring patients to other facilities without having in place the necessary state approvals is proof he is incapable of making sound decisions.
Murray continues to claim that testing within the hospital has not detected levels of contamination which would place anyone within risk. However, Murray’s own expert, Mission Viejo toxicologist Harry Skalsky, who was hired by the hospital to assess the fungal contamination, testified last fall that he found potentially harmful levels of Stachybotrys spores. The presence of these spores \\\”may lead to or exacerbate allergic reactions and/or cause toxic effects or infections,\\\” Skalsky wrote in a court declaration. The staff at St. John’s and patients treated during this time should demand the laboratory results and any other data pertinent to their possible exposure.
When Michael Murray says \\\”The hospital has an obligation to fix the problem and it would be irresponsible to leave this alone,” I couldn\\’t agree more. St. John\\’s indeed has an obligation to fix the problem, not avoid or defer it. Murray says that fixing the “problem” the correct way would be cost prohibitive, time consuming and cause a considerable loss of beds and use of the facility. Murray\\’s continued insistence on Sabre\\’s Technologies use of CLO2 to fumigate the hospital has reached the point where it calls to question Murray’s ability to lead this hospital through this troubled time.
Why would Murray continue to advocate for the process of CLO2 fumigation while experts throughout the Indoor Air Quality Industry passionately disagree with its self- claimed successes? Sabre Technologies has submitted to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) a request for special use (24C filing) for fumigating St. John’s Hospital. Their plan is to introduce CLO2 gas into the hospital at levels between 60-100 PPM, (parts per million) for a period of 12 hours. A recent 2005 Texas Tech University research document, forwarded by my office to the CDPR, confirms that even at tested levels of 500 PPM and 1,000 PPM, Stachybotrys spores remained toxic.
Fixing the building envelope and solving the continued moisture issues at the hospital are not elective. You cannot remediate any mold issues until the moisture issues have been identified and corrected. Murray’s previous statements that, \\\”the hospital would work on solving these concerns over the next year prior to mold being able to take hold,” is absolutely ludicrous. Industry professionals agree mold contamination following moisture intrusion begins within 48-72 hours.
According to a recent article by the Los Angeles Times, In 1996, Catholic Healthcare West, which owns St. John\\’s, sued the general contractor, Centex Rodgers, alleging that shoddy construction allowed water to seep into the building\\’s interior and led to mold infestation.
In 2003, St. John\\’s filed a second lawsuit against the contractor and several other firms after repairs failed to solve the problem. If Sabre Technologies fumigates this hospital as planned, without first solving the moisture issues, they better have in place a “Hold Harmless Agreement,” or they should be prepared to be an integral part of the next wave of litigation.
More importantly than the questioned efficacy of the proposed fumigation is the safety concerns related to the presence of a chlorine tank in our community. The safety personnel in our communities should review documents involving a chlorine tank explosion. These documents can be obtained from the Homeland Security Planning Scenarios and a Hospital Incident Command System, each documenting the attendant procedures necessary to protect our community.
Although St. John’s Hospital and Sabre Technologies continue to contend that the fumigation process is safe, the Homeland Security Department contradicts those claims. These important documents outline the possible casualties, infrastructure damage, evacuations, economic impact, potential for multiple events and the recovery time necessary for our community to recover.
Murray has an obligation to protect the patients and the staff of St. John’s Hospital, the community he serves, and to make informed decisions for Catholic Health Care West.
This has been, by Murray\\’s own account, an ongoing 14-year battle at this hospital. If Murray continues to lead this hospital into the unsafe, unproven, proposed use of CLO2 fumigation to \\\”solve St. John’s Hospital’s mold issues,” Catholic Healthcare West and our community should demand his resignation.