Schneider Hospital nears solution to 'serious' problem with defective air conditioning units
Published: October 4, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - After antiquated, failing air-conditioning units have made some parts of Schneider Hospital dangerously warm for six months, hospital officials may have reached an agreement with a contractor about contractual issues that will allow for the replacement of the five compressors.
Sen. Clarence Payne III, chairman of the Senate Health, Hospitals and Human Services Committee, issued a press release Wednesday saying he had met with Schneider officials after constituents contacted him about the muggy, hot wings at the hospital and expressed concerns about the safety of patients.
Payne, who did not return phone calls to The Daily News on Wednesday and Thursday, said in the statement that he had met with Schneider Chief Executive Officer Bernard Wheatley, who had assured Payne that, after negotiating with a vendor, the units are slated for replacement by the end of this month.
"The failure of Schneider Hospital's air-conditioning units is a very serious matter that impacts the health of the hospital's patients in much more fundamental ways than simply making patients uncomfortable," Payne said in the statement. "Maintaining temperatures in a health facility plays an important role in reducing the risk of infection, as a warm environment provides a friendlier climate for the multiplication of viruses and bacteria."
Payne said that hospital officials "assured him that a clinical investigation has determined that no patients suffered problems with infection that could be linked to the failed air-conditioning units."
According to a report given on Sept. 25 to Schneider's governing board by Vice President of Facilities Management Karen Hodge, the air-conditioning vendor is honoring the warranty for the replacement of the faulty units with an installation labor cost of $6,450, but the compressors still had not been received by the hospital.
The vendor also is requesting the return of the damage compressors at a cost of $1,000, according to Hodge's report.
Payne said a staff member had conducted a site visit and determined that air flow is being maintained throughout the facility, but temperatures are not optimal.
However, according to Hodge's report, the operating room's air-conditioning unit is "now showing signs of reduced air flow. As noted, due to the age of this equipment and its high run time this is a common breakdown."
The report also states that the hospital owes a balance of $1,089 to Central Air Inc. but it does not specify whether the same company is the vendor for the compressors.
Payne said hospital officials had reported that financial constraints had led to the deferment of maintenance on some critical equipment, such as the air-conditioning units, which are "old, antiquated" and have been stressed by having to run 24/7 in a tropical climate.
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