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Part of VA primary-care annex in Tampa closing to fix mold problem

Portions of the Primary Care Annex serving patients at the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital will be cordoned off for several weeks as workers clean up a mold problem.

Meantime, across Tampa Bay, officials at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center at Bay Pines are dealing with their own mold problems.

During a visit to Tampa on Wednesday, VA Secretary Robert McDonald said he was aware of the problems and is satisfied with how mold at local VA hospitals is being dealt with.

The work at the annex in Tampa will not affect clinical facilities and does not pose a health hazard, said Karen Collins, a Haley spokeswoman. However, those with appointments today and upcoming Saturdays will need to reschedule them while the work takes place, Collins said.

"The area will be barricaded and ventilated to ensure there is little or no risk of exposure for patients or staff and daily safety inspections are being performed by the VA Safety Office," Collins said.

Earlier this month, staffers at the center, where about 300 employees handle the primary-care needs of about 400 patients a day, discovered stained ceiling tiles after downpours from Hurricane Hermine, Collins said. That prompted officials at Haley to contact the annex landlords, Duke Realty.

Collins said Haley officials were told Thursday that the problems were likely due to mold but that condensation in the atrium portion of the building rather than a leak was to blame.

Workers have placed dehumidifiers in the atrium to deal with the condensation in the short term and are working on a long-term fix, Collins said.

The work at the annex comes as officials at the Young center deal with their own mold contamination, created by water leaks in showers on the fifth floor of the main hospital.

That work has partly closed one ward and will partly close another as the work continues.

Mold was discovered last year in shower rooms in wards 5A and 5B of the main hospital, said Jason Dangel, a spokesman.

Between 150 and 170 employees work in those wards, Dangel said last week, and a large portion of the medical center's 3,200 employees work in the building.

The two wards, which are used for surgical patients, have a total of 74 beds, Dangel said.

Ward 5B is partly closed, Dangel said. Of the total 38 beds available there, 13 have been taken out of service while work is being completed, while 25 beds remain in service for patient care.

There has been no reduction in the total number of operating beds at the hospital, Dangel said.

Mold has been known to contribute to a variety of maladies, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including upper respiratory and asthma symptoms.

Dangel said the mold problem at the Young center, and ongoing cleanup work, poses no danger.

Contact Howard Altman at haltman@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.

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