As a long-term employee of St. Joseph Hospital, I was disappointed but not surprised by administration's denial of a toxic mold problem in PCU and the third floor break room ("Mold Grievance," May 12). I, therefore, have a modest proposal: Relocate the administrative naysayers to a new office - the third-floor break room - for six months, five days a week, eight hours a day. No chronic bronchitis, otitis, sinusitis or palpitations allowed!
Roxanne Spencer, R.N., Eureka
The best treatment for mold growth is not treatment at all, but prevention. Mold growth anywhere on the St. Joseph's Hospital premises indicates that prevention and monitoring strategies currently in place are NOT working.
Mold spores are not only airborne but can travel on biomedical equipment, a person's skin or clothing. Health effects of mold toxicity are found only after molds have grown and spread, therefore subsequent measures to eradicate a mold, though necessary, can often be too little, too late for those already affected. Hospitals - and in this moldy, wet region most buildings - need to practice prevention on several levels: HEPA air filtration, UV air treatment systems, dehumidification, adequate disinfection of all equipment and surfaces, and handwashing. The most practical and less expensive preventive measures for homes are dehumidifiers and regular disinfection of bathrooms, kitchens and mold prone areas such as closets and windows with household bleach.
Clearly a cluster of infections in nurses who work at St. Joe's indicates that there is a problem in the hospital. Coincidental, nearly simultaneous infection in this population from outside exposure seems unlikely. Even more unfortunate is the possibility that patients may also have been exposed. Symptoms of mold toxicity are often mistaken for, or masked by, the symptoms of other common diseases. Pre-existing asthma, COPD and emphysema are common causes for hospitalization; and the sad fact is that any hospitalization for any reason (minor or major surgery, heart problems, child birth, etc) means greater risk for nosocomial infection (those spread within a hospital). ALL hospitalized patients are immuno-compromised simply from the stress of illness and hospitalization and, therefore, are more susceptible to infections from molds.
Here are some critical questions to ask St. Joe's: Is there a prevention and monitoring protocol? What mold prevention measures are currently used? Is there a method for evaluating hospital related mold toxicity in patients, both during and after a hospital stay? Since there seems to be evidence of a hospital outbreak and molds have already been detected on their premises, what is planned for improving prevention measures?
Kathleen Marshall, R.N., Arcata