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Cape Coral hospital pulls tainted walls

Moisture-trapping wallpaper cut down today

Jul. 27, 2010


1:10 A.M. — Work should begin today to remove drywall and wallpaper in a dozen patient rooms at Cape Coral Hospital that might be affected by mold, officials said.

“We are doing everything that we should to make everything safe for our patients and employees and that we’re not placing anybody at risk,” said Stephen Streed, Lee Memorial Health Systems director of epidemiology.

The repair work will continue through August, Streed said. He said a cost estimate is not available because more rooms may need to be repaired.

The first 10 rooms have been sealed off and devices have been installed to keep drywall or potential mold particles from escaping into other parts of the fourth floor where the stained wallpaper was found, Streed said.

After the first dozen rooms are repaired, workers will check the remaining 17 rooms on the floor, Streed said. He said the wallpaper will be removed, along with drywall if necessary, in the remaining rooms and paint will be applied.

The problem with the discolored wallpaper, which may indicate mold, was first reported by hospital employees July 14. The rooms were closed and patients relocated to other units.

Although industrial hygienists hired by the hospital have not determined the discolorations were caused by mold, they told hospital officials to assume it was, said Karen Krieger, Lee Memorial Health Systems spokeswoman.

Mold in hospitals is a problem because it can cause respiratory irritation, allergic reactions and, sometimes, infections.

The stained wallpaper is made of a vinyl material and traps moisture, leading to the discoloration. New drywall is being installed and coated with paint, which does not trap condensation nor present any mold problems, Streed said.

Unless the wallpaper is peeled back, the vinyl traps the moisture and seals it, preventing any risk of exposing patients to mold, according to the industrial hygienic consultants, Streed said.

Streed said that vinyl wallpaper in third floor rooms and other areas of the hospital also will be replaced with coats of paint. He said mold problems have not been reported in other areas of the hospital.

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