MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — About 175 patients at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg have been temporarily relocated after mold was found in their individual air conditioning units.
Timothy Cooke, the new acting director of the VA Illiana Healthcare System in Danville, recently served as associate director of the Martinsburg medical center, but declined to comment on the problem.
"Mr. Cooke is the acting director here at the (Illiana system) and has no official capacity at (the) Martinsburg VA," Doug Shouse, administrative assistant to the director, wrote in an email.
Cooke started his new temporary post in Danville on Aug. 19, three days before the mold was discovered at the Martinsburg medical center. He had served in his last position since 2010, and was the center's facility management service chief from 2004 to becoming associate director.
In the email, Shouse said Cooke would serve as the Illiana system's acting director until a new director is hired to replace Emma Metcalf, who transferred to the VA Medical Center in Lexington, Ky. A search is being conducted to find a permanent replacement.
Media outlets say the affected patients are dealing with substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues. Some were sent to hotels or other VA-owned property.
Spokesman Richard Nappi said the VA is working on the logistics to ensure that the patients continue receiving whatever treatment they had been getting.
"We are looking hard at this because we don't want them to lose any of the progress they've made," he said.
The VA says removal of the mold is expected to take about 60 days. Officials didn't identify the type of mold found but said they believe the health risks from it are low.
Dr. Jonathan Fierer said the relocation was necessary because patient safety is of paramount importance. The affected air conditioners are not attached to other buildings or any common ductwork, he said.
The affected areas were shut down on Friday, the day after the mold was discovered.
Administrator Ann Brown says the hospital itself is open and business is being conducted as usual.
The affected units are part of a 312-bed Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program.
The VA Medical Center provides care to veterans in southeastern Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. It includes a 69-bed hospital and 178-bed nursing home-care unit.