Despite clearing a blockage in a sewer line at Greenwood Leflore Hospital, the main medical facility remained mostly empty for the second straight day as officials on Tuesday worked to clear it of potentially harmful gases released as a result of the fuse.
“Of course we want to take care of our residents on site again as quickly and safely as possible. We will not compromise on that,” said Gary Marchand, who has been reappointed as the hospital’s interim CEO.
After the clog, which a Greenwood sewage official said was caused by a buildup of grease and rags that had washed down the hospital’s plumbing, the hospital conducted a visual inspection of the crawl space beneath the building.
Marchand said the ground beneath the newer, west half of the hospital was dry, but the older, east half had areas of wet earth and some light puddles. As no broken pipes were found, it is believed that the blockage caused human excreta and other sewage to back up and leak out of the flanged connections into the crawlspace.
The floor was wet under all five elevator shafts in that part of the hospital complex, Marchand said.
He said he understands there is not much risk of bacteria or viruses entering patient areas from the leak. The main concern is the possibility of noxious gases, mainly methane, entering the hospital through the elevator shafts.
Atmos Energy tested air quality throughout the building on Monday and met quality safety standards, according to a statement from the hospital. A second audit was conducted on Tuesday.
The press release said a plumbing company is inspecting the plumbing with a camera to see if any of the pipes are damaged. Another contractor, Servpro, was on site to decontaminate the affected elevator shafts. The hospital also received offers from three companies to clean it up, which Marchand said would largely consist of spreading lime on the wet areas.
On Monday, the hospital closed everything but the emergency room. All surgeries and outpatient procedures scheduled by the clinics in the 208-bed building have been canceled and all more than 30 inpatients have either been discharged or transferred to other medical facilities.
About 20 patients, including some being treated in the ICU, were rushed by ambulance to eight different medical facilities in Jackson, Grenada, Indianola, Greenville, Cleveland, Columbus, Oxford and Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
In addition to the emergency room staff, the hospital works with emergency staff in the departments of radiology, pharmacy and obstetrics, as well as in the laboratory. Marchand said the night shift had been canceled for Tuesday and staff were told to be on hand for an update on Wednesday morning.
As a precaution, hospital workers who worked Tuesday still did not flush dressers or dump water into the sewers. A bench with port-a-potties had been set up for her in the hospital parking lot.
Clinics and other hospital facilities located outside the building were not affected and are operating normally.
According to Eddie Payne, superintendent of Greenwood’s sewage treatment department, the blockage at Greenwood Leflore Hospital was caused by a buildup of grease and rags that had been washed down the hospital’s plumbing. (By Tim Kalich)
On Tuesday afternoon, a cleaning truck from Greenwood’s sewage treatment department flushed out a manhole on Strong Avenue near the hospital to prevent the hospital’s work on its plumbing from causing another clog on the city’s side, affecting residents and other businesses in the environment.
Eddie Payne, the department’s superintendent, said Monday’s blockage originated at the hospital.
“It seemed like an excessive amount of fat and rags,” he said.
Marchand said hospital workers began smelling an odor Friday morning, apparently like sewage, and the hospital was trying to trace it before the situation reached a crisis point Monday morning.
Before the hospital can reopen, it must be vacated by the Mississippi State Department of Health. An emergency planner from the Department of Health was on site, consulting with the hospital’s crisis response team as they develop a recovery plan to be presented to the state.
Marchand said the shutdown should be short-lived as there appear to be no broken pipes. He said it was possible that the newer part of the hospital would be cleared for reopening while clean-up work was carried out on the older, affected part.
The loss of patient revenue from the closure could exacerbate the financial difficulties of the hospital, which is soliciting bids for a long-term lease because it is running out of money to operate. In the first 10 months of this fiscal year, the hospital has lost $12.7 million, even after $9.2 million went mostly to federal coronavirus relief funds.
“A two-day shutdown is better than a week,” Marchand said. “A week is better than a month. A month is better than a year.”
– Contact Tim Kalich at 662-581-7243 or [email protected]