Wheezing and hacking their way through sentences, three health-care workers from the Victoria General hospital came to the legislature yesterday to tell the health minister how the building is making them sick.

“Four months ago I contracted pneumonia and I have never been able to get really better since,” Janice Fougere, a personal support worker in the transitional care unit on the fourth floor of the Centennial building told reporters before meeting with the minister.

Her voice cracking, she said she’s had tests, X-rays and has been on a variety of medications for her condition but nothing seems to help.


Fougere and her two colleagues, also suffering from severe respiratory illnesses, said the disrepair of the building is the cause.

It’s been at the centre of controversy over the past few years.

Operating rooms have closed due to leaks in the ceiling; patients and family members have complained about poor air quality; legionella, a bacteria that causes pneumonia, has been found in the water pipes; and patients say flies swarm the rooms.
Joan Jessome, president of the union representing the health-care workers, said the women are the most seriously ill among employees working in units 4A and 4B of the building, but they’re not the only sick ones.

“There are at least another 25 staff that are experiencing various degrees of what these ladies are going through,” she said.

Health Minister Chris d’Entremont agreed there are problems with the building.

“What you need to do to the facility — in my mind — is blow it up,” he said.

But there’s nowhere to put the 60 or so seniors residing in the unit, d’Entremont said. He said he sympathizes with Fougere and her colleagues and hopes to have a new home for at least the residents of units 4A and 4B within the next three to six months.


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