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Cape Coral Hospital's closed rooms cause ER backup

Facility assesses scope of its problem

Jul. 16, 2010


1:10 A.M. — The closing of a dozen patient rooms at Cape Coral Hospital because of a potential mold problem caused delays in the emergency room, officials said Friday.

Between July 2 and Monday, patients in 12 rooms were moved from the fourth floor to beds in the ER.

A run on the emergency room Monday caused a backup of 18 patients waiting to be admitted to the ER, said Doug Lockett, the hospital's chief administrative officer, because patients from the fourth floor were still using beds. He said the ER patients were admitted by the end of the day.

"We had to put patients in overflow beds," he said.

Everything is back to normal. "I believe all patients are satisfied and happy in their new rooms right now," said Karen Krieger, hospital spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, officials are trying to determine what caused the discoloration on the walls near air conditioning units, with mold being a possibility. The first room was discovered July 2.

Hospital officials do not believe a patient's health was at risk at any time. Once discoloration was noticed in those rooms, patients were moved immediately. "If anything happened to affect patients' health, they would have been notified," said Steve Streed, system director for epidemiology for Lee Memorial Health System.

When asked if he saw any reason to notify the public of the problem prior to Thursday, Lockett said no. He said there was no attempt to cover up the problem.

Repairs haven't been made because experts are assessing the scope of the problem, Streed said. He said wallpaper may need to be ripped out and drywall replaced.

The problem first developed when staff on the fourth floor noticed the wallpaper in one room was discolored, Streed said.

He said the patient in the room was relocated and "we did a risk assessment." Then they started checking other rooms and found the same problem and patients were moved immediately over the next 10 days, Streed said.

All the rooms were shut down by Monday.

Officials said they notified the Agency For Health Care Administration of the problem Thursday. The state agency conducts sanitary inspections at Florida hospitals.

"We were still assessing the situation. We then notified AHCA as a matter of routine," Streed said.

The reason for concern is mold may cause allergic illnesses and infections in people with immune system problems.

Consultants hired by the hospital said the wallpaper, a construction standard in rooms in the 1990s, could have trapped moisture caused by air conditioner condensation and caused the discoloration. The new standard is to paint the walls to prevent discoloration.

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