Contractors remove asbestos at hospital

Renovation in preparation for two new electrical systems

As the Trail hospital prepares for a new nurse call system and fire alarms on its third floor, Interior Health has taken the opportunity to remove asbestos from the ceilings in the west wing of the medical floor.

The $50,000 project started last week and is expected to be completed before the end of the month.

“In order to remove these ceilings safely with no risk to staff or patients, airtight enclosures will be constructed to seal off the area under renovation,” explained Robert Bush, site director for Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital.

“This is similar to what took place when we did renovations to the fourth floor maternity and child area.”

To ensure there is no impact to patient care, beds have been shuffled while contractors carefully remove asbestos – found in old ceilings, drywall tape, pipe insulation and spackle.

Unlike the old hard ceiling, the new lifted T-bar ceiling being put in will make life easier when running wire for the new systems that will be installed in April.

“Whenever we have a need to renovate a space, we go in and mitigate asbestos,” said Steve McEwan, Interior Health’s director of plant services for the Kootenay Boundary area. “For all of B.C., (asbestos) has been an issue since the ‘80s. People stopped using asbestos in the mid- to late-‘70s.”

Asbestos became popular among manufacturers and builders in the late 19th century because of its sound absorption, average tensile strength and resistance to heat, electrical and chemical damage.

Though it has been banned for many years in Canada, it can still be found in older buildings.

Long exposure to high concentrations of asbestos fibers is more likely to cause health problems, as asbestos exists in the ambient air at low levels, which itself does not cause health problems.

The inhalation of asbestos can cause serious illnesses, including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma – cancer associated with exposure to amphibole asbestos – and asbestosis, a chronic inflammatory and fibrotic medical condition affecting the tissue of the lungs.

The contractor will be required to file notice with WorkSafe BC, which will be doing spot inspections during the removal process. There will also be a third-party environmental air quality-monitoring contractor on site to ensure that all enclosures, work procedures and testing are done correctly.