The Valley Medical Clinic in Duncan has been temporarily closed due to the reported discovery of vermiculite insulation containing asbestos fibres in the clinic, other workspaces of the building and the air circulation system.
A verbal stop-work order was issued Monday morning by WorkSafeBC for the clinic at 335 Jubilee St. and the other building tenants, two dental practices and a pharmacy. A written notice was issued Wednesday and the building will remain closed as it is assessed and decontaminated. A makeshift clinic has been set up on nearby Evans Street.
“It remains closed pending a risk assessment and decontamination work,” said WorkSafeBC director of media relations Scott McCloy, noting those steps are up to the owner.
Doyle Childs, who owns the holding company that owns the building, said in a best-case-scenario he will also potentially reopen several areas of the building by today (Friday), specifically the pharmacy and dental clinics.
“All I can say is that nobody will get into the building until it’s safe,” said Childs, who purchased the building in October.
McCloy said the presence of asbestos in B.C. buildings built prior to 1990 is common but must be properly contained.
Island Health urges the hundreds of patients who visit Valley Medical to go to nearby walk-in clinics and avoid the emergency department at Cowichan District Hospital, except for urgent medical needs.
“By doing so, you are helping our dedicated emergency staff provide high-quality emergency care as quickly as possible to all emergency patients,” said Dr. David Robertson, executive medical director of Island Health.
WorkSafeBC attended a standard cleanout of the air plenum system (part of the air circulation and heating system) on Monday along with Northwest Environmental Consulting Inc. and subsequently issued a stop-work order after asbestos was found in the air vent system and workspaces in the building, according to McCloy.
Vermiculite contamination began in damaged areas of the cinder block-constructed interior walls and subsequently entered the venting system and workspaces.
“Some workspaces are more contaminated than others, particularly in the Valley Medical Clinic,” McCloy said.
Next steps to be handled by the building owner will entail full risk assessment of the contamination, decontamination of the workspaces, air plenum and H-VAC system and repair of the damaged walls where the vermiculite has been migrating.
WorkSafeBC has an online exposure registry program on its website at www.worksafebc.com where workers and employers can note they may have been exposed to asbestos and other harmful substances at work. It serves as a record if a claim is filed in the future.
“There’s been no injury yet, because the ingestion of asbestos fibres may or may not result in an injury at some point down the line. The latency period of asbestos can be as long as 20 to 40 years,” McCloy explained, noting that asbestos is a known carcinogen.
• The Beverly Medical Clinic at 201-2763 Beverly St. in Duncan is open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Contacted them at 250-597-3390.
• Cowichan One Way Clinic is located at 291 Cowichan Way in Duncan and is open Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. They can be reached at 778-422-3999.