The first step in a remodeling project at the old Tulare County Hospital in Tulare, California has prompted concerns from employees of the nearby Hillman HealthCare Clinic about exposure to dangerous asbestos.
According to an article in the Visalia Times-Delta, the California Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) was called to the site of the old hospital late last week to determine whether employees at Hillman had been exposed to asbestos that was being removed from the hospital, which is on the floor above the clinic. A concerned individual tipped off OSHA when no one seemed to be giving them answers about the work being done at the hospital.
Ted Phipps, capital projects manager for Tulare County reports that the carpet being pulled up at the hospital is glued to asbestos floor tiles that were installed when the building was constructed in the 1920s. He says a two-hour inspection by OSHA showed no reason for concern.
Employees, however, aren’t sure that’s the case, concerned about potential lung diseases such as asbestosis and pleural mesothelioma. So, the county has offered them chest x-rays, says Jed Chernabaeff, county spokesman. “There was a concern expressed, so protocol was followed,” he notes.
The article reports that 25 Tulare County Health and Human Services Administration employees were displaced two weeks ago and informed of the goings-on, but no one at Hillman was told what was transpiring when work commenced on August 13. Concern by employees as to why the building was “wrapped” and why no one was answering their questions prompted Steven Debuskey, vice president for outpatient services at Tulare Regional Medical Center, to call the county for answers. It took 5 days for someone to return his call.
“They assured me they are using precautions,” he said. “I’m not too concerned about it, but I wish they had notified me about it.”
County projects manager Phipps told the newspaper that as long as the containment on the second floor stays up, everyone on the first floor will be safe. Hillman clinic has 36 employees and 22 contracted physicians.