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Health care workers fall ill

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Cambridge Bay (Mar 14/05) - Six health care workers in Cambridge Bay are sick with symptoms ranging from eye irritation to severe nausea, and there is concern that the air in their health care centre may be the cause.

The building, which is 30 years old, had been closed recently due to a fuel leak inside the building. Two teams of workers including hamlet employees were called in to fix the problem.

Levinia Brown answers questions about six health care workers in Cambridge Bay who fell ill. - Kathleen Lippa/NNSL photo

The small fuel leak was a drip from a leaky filter, not a four gallon spill as was earlier reported, said Derrick Anderson, facilities maintenance manager for the hamlet of Cambridge Bay.

During the course of their work last week, plumbers also discovered another problem -- the pipes in the building were corroded due to X-ray fluid being flushed down the system without being properly diluted first.

The X-ray fluid corrosion may have added to the smell in the building, but Anderson, who said he was "crawling around on his hands and knees in the stuff," doesn't think so.

"My guys were in there, I was in there last week. None of us are sick," Anderson said.

"When I went in there all I could smell was vinegar," said Anderson.

Terry McCallum, Cambridge Bay's mayor, said the fuel smell is basically gone now, but he continues to worry about those X-ray chemicals going into the town's holding tanks. McCallum said although no one knows why the workers are sick, he doesn't want anyone going into the building until the matter is solved.

Health minister Levinia Brown and chief medical officer Dr. Geraldine Osbourne held a press conference in Iqaluit on Thursday to announce that an investigation is under way to determine what made the health care office workers sick.

"Together with the department of community and government services we are conducting a thorough assessment of the health centre to determine the cause of this issue," said Brown in a prepared statement.

An air quality specialist arrived in Cambridge Bay from Yellowknife on Thursday.