Calgary Holy Cross Hospital Asbestos Nightmare

While I was in Calgary to wish my mother a happy 87th birthday, I read with shock and dismay an article in the Herald editorial pages (Feb. 20, 07) about asbestos in the old Holy Cross Hospital. An excerpt from the Alberta Liberal leader’s new book, the article enumerated the tale of corruption – Klein basically arranging to sell off the old hospital for 4.5m (when it was later assessed at 20.something million), to his cronies Peter Huang and his brothers, all doctors. Highly placed in the opthalmology sphere, Huang was head of that area for the CRHA (Calgary and Region Health Authority). It appears that he gave himself the contract to open an eye clinic in the newly purchased Holy Cross, which was then immediately being renovated for private use. So we have patronage, corruption, and all the political stuff that we have come to expect. But then it gets worse.

It was known that asbestos was in the building, and the building was being renovated. At first, the city responded to the queries about the asbestos and how it was being handled, then after two weeks there was only silence. It appears that people were hushed up. Meanwhile, reports on the site revealed that workers were only using flimsy painter’s masks, and then would sit down in the same place and have their lunch. Not only that, a nurse (who was very afraid of speaking out) reported that she was caring for frail and elderly people on a floor that shared an elevator with the workers, who would come and go in their asbestos-covered clothes.

My brother had taken my mother to the hospital in those days many times for her eye surgery with Dr. Huang. Waiting, they would go to the coffee shop in the building, and the workers would be there in their dusty clothes. Huang’s waiting room was always overfull. One person said that they had 12 people waiting for an appointment at the same time! It was a sausage factory of eye surgery. Huang rarely spoke to his patients. The waiting area was like something imagined from the old days of East Germany: stiff chairs in a crowded corridor filled with people who have eye bandages on. This doctor was considered the best in the city. He was, after all, the head of opthalmology for the CRHA. My mother’s cataract surgery didn’t take, so it became a cornea transplant that became rejected and infected, so another cornea transplant had to be done, and there was one visit in which she had something done without enough anaesthetic, so she was having her eye scraped while awake and feeling it as a horrific torture. Meanwhile, just upstairs, the asbestos was being removed. I wonder if her repeated problems could have been due to the asbestos in the air (what kind of HVAC system did they have in place) – not in the operating area, but in the waiting hallway, or the air in general. She went to Huang for 100 visits, lost the sight of her eye, was hospitalized twice for complications, and he didn’t see her while she was in the hospital. In fact, it was said he didn’t have hospital privileges so she was admitted under his brother’s name, then seen by a staff doctor.
As we know, asbestos also causes cancer. Last year my dear mum finished radiation treatments which successfully eliminated a mouth/throat cancer.

I read this article on my mother’s birthday. She pulled through it all to become 87. How many of her health problems were caused by events that need not have happened? I can’t help but wonder how much the asbestos mismanagement and the doctor’s apparent greed contributed to my mother’s infections and loss of sight, and perhaps her cancer also.

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12 thoughts on “Calgary Holy Cross Hospital Asbestos Nightmare

  1. Hi Carol. Fran sent me the link to your post. I thought you might like to go and see Kevin Taft speak, and pick up a copy of his book. He is going to be delivering a “Speech from the Throne for an Alberta Liberal Government” at the Leacock Theatre at Mount Royal College on Wednesdsay February 28 at 7:00 p.m. Copies of his new book Democracy Derailed will be for sale, and he will sign all purchased copies. Check out this link for more info http://www.albertaliberal.com/index.php/alp/calendar/2007/02/28/
    I’ve also invited Fran and Bob to come, maybe you could all come together.

  2. i was glad a ran across this site. My husband has worked on the hospital since it first started and now is suffering from COPD mild emphazema and lung problems if you come across any info please email me as we keep coming up to road blocks. would like to see my kids grow up with their dad

  3. Hi Cathy,
    I wish I could be of more help. I think it might be best if you contact Kevin Taft, maybe by linking to the person who sent me the first comment…. best wishes for all that, and don’t just accept that this is something to live with. It isn’t good to give up on something this important.

  4. maybe you need to look closer at this holy cross place there is more coruption than meet the eyes like 100degres in the assisted living floors in summer times and no fire and safety plans the fire instingushers are not inspected rent incresses thah are not governed,shortages of staffing geperdissing nursing home patients,manor residents not qualifieng under the assisted living defenition,home care refuses to send care givers because of residents living at risk ect,even now the nursing home level had to move because of some issues that CRH found funny since they should be overseing all of the renovation even site visits ,this place should not be allowed to stay open t’ill all is fixed and for more clues a doctor on the main floor when to the media regarding the heat problems and again ,what the huang brothers did was provide extra fans and even give the manor residents the ok to use an empty apartment with a standing airconditioning unit to relief the heatnot in there rooms where they payed rent for but on one floor so they had to share this little place with 50 tenents and use the elevator to reach that floor and also share with the aspestos worker that are hired from the cash conner no experience money under the table and voila the brothers have won again,need more info talk to the tenants and family members why are they still allowed to be open??????

  5. hi my name is chris, i wokred at the holy cross for about a year and a half doing demo and asbestos removal while employed i noticed an excess amount of unsafe acts happening ALL the time,for example how the remove,contain and transfer the asbestos, i know several things about the job site that were unsafe and would not meet OH&s standerds, i did bring them to the supervisors attention but no complience so i quit, more info? contact me

  6. After reading all the comments written on this site about the Holy Cross and its Asbestos concerns, I am in shock!!I was hired in 2002 by the owners of the Holy cross to oversee the renovations at the Holy Cross! I have been in the asbestos abatement industry for 23 years and I have been the site foreman on some of the largest abatement projects ever in southern Alberta!I can assure everyone that the holy cross is safe!Since I was hired I have witnessed literally thousands of air tests,numerous inspections by the city of calgary as well as many many visits from occupational Health and safety officers from the Alberta Government!Never has there been any concerns about the air quality at the holy cross! Just like many Schools,hospitals,and older buildings in Calgary the Holy Cross did have asbestos, but just because a building has asbestos does not mean that it is unsafe!Almost every house and building built before 1978 will have some type of asbestos containing materials in them!As for unsafe acts at the Holy Cross, Never!! We work very closely with Occupational Healyh and Safety,Consultants as well as Engineers to be sure that the upmost safety precautions are taken to ensure the safety of workers as well as the public!!We are subjected to suprise inspections by the Alberta Government on a frequent basis, and never has there been any concerns!I am the father of 3 young children,If I thought for a second that the Holy Cross was unsafe I would never work there!I dont want to die!!! I could very easily work somewhere else!!It is my opinion that Mr. Taft started this mess by talking about something he knew nothing about,and it has been blown way out of proportion!! As for Chris We both know why you dont work at the Holy anymore!If you had a problem with the safety conditions you should have called Occupational Health and Safety!Since youve been gone we have had many surprise visits and the government thinks we are doing a good job!!!

    • Hi John, Thanks for your comment. I realize that when we read the article and saw the situation, we were naturally concerned. What you say makes sense to me though, and I wonder about this whole approach – you said that “Mr. Taft started this mess”. Was he out of line? the other comments here don’t seem to agree, but your voice indicates otherwise. Thanks for voicing your experience and letting us know that this was a safe situation. Still, I do wonder about the workers coming up and down the elevators with dust on their clothes, eating lunch in the cafeteria with the eye patients. Now, as you said, that dust may not have put asbestos into the air. It is a long time ago now and it is pretty clear that you worked there and have no health issues.

      • Perhaps the workers in the elevators and in the cafeteria were doing non asbestos demolition and were not required to wear protective clothing or shower! I have heard all the stories! But I havnt seen any actual proof!Like I said before, I have reviewed and witnessed thousands of air tests done by experienced consulting firms, and to the best of my knowledge never has there been anything to worry about at the Holy Cross!As for Mr. Taft, Lets just say that I used to be a die hard liberal!Now I am not!! Without Predjudice, John

    • of Course john will insist that it is safe as he did the job himself. We need a third party opinion, excluding government agency, or labs. We need a thirty party lab and do all necessary tests to prove air is good. As it is now, 2012 I have a friend working there and get very sick after a few months only, always conplaining stuffy air. so are his collegues. this friend did not have a clue about this issue at holy cross only complaining about bad air. We checked online just yesterday and found this whole story. so John, if you are really concerned about the qualituy of your work, you need to verify afterwards the quality of air. Maybe somthing was missing. The FACT is people still feel sick in there.

  7. The degree of the infection can have something to do with the type of asbestos found in the hospital. If it was Amphibole asbestos it will be more likely to cause cancers as it tends to stay in the lungs longer than chrysotile fibers. Either case the asbestos should never be taken lightly, and I’m sorry to hear of your mother condition.

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