Mold Reportedly Growing In Walls At Norman Regional Hospital

Wednesday, March 30th 2011, 10:28 pm
By: News 9

Dana Hertneky, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- According to a whistleblower, construction at Norman Regional Hospital revealed mold growing inside the walls of patient rooms, and the contractor hired to do the construction isn't cleaning it up like he's supposed to.

The project is funded with a federal grant. But according to the whistleblower, the contractor is skimping on cleaning up the mold and putting patients at risk.

The whistleblower provided News 9 with samples of what workers say they found on the walls inside Norman Regional Health's System's Porter campus. The samples show mold clearly growing on drywall and inside wallpaper.

"When you go to a hospital it's to get better, not to go to a mold infested place," said the whistleblower, who didn't want to be identified.

The whistleblower says they found the mold as patient rooms were being renovated. He and other co-workers say it's spread throughout the second, third, fourth and fifth floors.

"If our tax dollars are paying for this why are we paying for half the work?" said the worker.

Dr. David Johnson, a professor for OU's College of Public Health, said he can't speak about this specific case without a thorough inspection but said any mold can be dangerous inside a hospital.

"If the right person inhales it, if you're having a compromised immune system like someone who has had chemotherapy or radiation treatment, this is an opportunistic organism and if you inhale it and it gets deep enough in the lungs it can cause an infection," said Dr. Johnson.

That's why he said the CDC requires it be cleaned up properly.

"It's just a matter of dilute bleach solution, wipe it off and then typically after it's dry you have to paint over it with barrier paint," said Dr. Johnson.

But according to News 9's whistleblower, that isn't being done. The walls are simply being tiled, plastered or painted over.

"He's in a get it done mood, get it done, get it done, get it done," said the worker. 

A spokesperson for Norman Regional Hospital released this statement Wednesday night:

"It is our policy that prior to any construction, infection control risk assessments are performed using the expertise of infection prevention, safety, engineering and the contractor hired for the project. 

We take environmental concerns and the safety of our patients seriously. Construction areas are monitored continuously for cleanliness and safety and specific procedures are put in place to abate mold if it is found."

Dr. Johnson said while any mold may be dangerous in hospitals, in most cases it's not for a normal home where residents don't have a compromised immune system.

Pamela Seffel, Vice President of J.L. Walker Construction, released a statement Thursday morning regarding the situation.

"It is J. L. Walker Construction's policy to monitor construction areas daily for safety, cleanliness and compliance with the owner's policies and procedures. Our client, Norman Regional Hospital, has risk controls in place and has reviewed these controls with us. Specific action is implemented to abate mold if it is discovered."