Source of Illness That Caused Evacuation at Redwoods Rural Health Center Still Unknown

Redwoods Rural Health CenterAfter several people fell ill and Redwoods Rural Health Center (RRHC) had to be evacuated and closed on Monday, staff and investigators from Humboldt County’s Department of Health and Human Services have struggled to understand what occurred. Fortunately, the Dental building provided room for most of the needed medical services to continue for patients.

“Several people at different times and in different parts of the building were symptomatic,” according to Maje Hoyos, Senior Hazardous Materials Specialist for Humboldt County’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The incidents occurred on both Monday and then again on Tuesday after Redwoods Rural’s medical building opened for business again. The staff closed the medical building in the afternoon after the incidents on Tuesday morning.

After multiple tests, speculation has centered on an unused sewer drain that, according to a press release from RRHC issued yesterday, “may have been emitting fumes periodically.”

Hoyos said that her office has “seen this in the past” at other sites. However, even though, according to her, she tested the air near the drain immediately after one incident of illness, she did not discover “anything out of the ordinary.”

The press release from RRHC states, “As a precautionary measure, RRHC is conducting facility maintenance in order to clean the building before opening it to the public.” At this point they haven’t indicated when the medical building will reopen.

Hoyos said that the issue has moved beyond an emergency situation covered by the County and into something the Center might need to “have an outside third party investigate.”

DHHS did not order the medical building closed, Hoyos said. “[The illnesses] could be transient or it could be something with the building that is more permanent.”

Almost all medical patients are still being seen. The medical providers have been relocated into the Dental facility. There are only a few patient procedures that can’t be dealt with at this time.

Press release from Redwoods Rural Health Center issued Thursday:

Redwoods Rural Health Center (RRHC) is fortunate that we were able to relocate our medical services to the Dental Building at 101 West Coast Rd. in Redway after a potential incident in the medical building earlier in the week.  Patients with scheduled appointments should check-in at the Dental Front Desk.
During the Feb. 8 inspection of the medical building conducted by the Humboldt County Division of Environmental Health and Humboldt Bay Fire, the team tested the oxygen level as well as for carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, explosive gasses, volatile organics, radiological and irritant agents.  The results of these tests were inconclusive.  Investigators believe an unused sewer drain may have been emitting fumes periodically that accumulated in the building, but they were unable to confirm this with testing.

As advised, Redwoods Rural Health Center is hydrating the drain, therefore reactivating the trap to stop gasses from entering the RRHC medical building.  As a precautionary measure, RRHC is conducting facility maintenance in order to clean the building before opening it to the public.

In order to meet the needs of our medical patients, patients are being seen in the dental building. Thank you for your patience and understanding.  The health and wellbeing of RRHC’s employees and patients are our top priority.

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6 comments

  • Sooo…that wasn’t really an answer.
    Maybe I messed something?

  • Oh man – I’m so sorry – I was in there for an appointment, and I carried my pack for security reasons…..my 100 cc bottle of Halothane (think ether X 20) that was in it must have leaked!
    I keep it there in case I ask someone for something and they answer, “go ahead – knock yourself out” – so I do.
    Man, everyone in the place started staggering around like a bunch of drunks – I yelled “gas!” and high tailed it out the back door….
    Luckily it’ll probably be blamed on “swamp gas”, but fear not – no more carrying around general anesthetics by yours truly! ;^p

  • I wonder if it was an illness like a flu or something

  • Usually the flu doesnt make you pass out suddenly and go to the hospital. Its very odd situation. That road used to have sawmills on it, and maybe a leach pond where building is now? Ernie or anyone know whats under there? Who knows what ended up in soil.

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