MIAMI (WSVN) - Elective surgeries have been temporarily suspended at the Miami VA Healthcare System due to a malfunctioning air conditioning unit.
The disruption comes at a time when Miami-Dade County is grappling with persistent excessive heat warnings.
Riezel Paraiso, the director of Miami’s VA Chapter of the National Nurses United, the local nurses union, said that a malfunctioning AC unit is currently being repaired after forcing the hospital to halt all elective surgeries out of an abundance of caution.
Nurses who reported to the union said the problem began affecting a section of the 12th floor. On Wednesday, hospital officials said the problem spread to a wing on the 11th floor, forcing it to shut down. Both areas are medical surgery units.
“There’s two floors that we have our veterans in, that they had to close because there’s no AC,” said Paraiso.
Paraiso told 7News that she is outraged by the issues she and other staff are dealing with.
“It’s not fair, and it’s not just right, and it’s not the first time,” she said.
According to VA officials, one of the facility’s primary chillers went offline while workers conducted a routine cleanup, forcing the hospital to delay all elective surgeries.
“Anything that they feel can wait because it’s unsafe for the patient, they cancelled those procedures,” said Paraiso, “so that’s essentially a delay in patient care.”
Patients who had scheduled elective surgeries will have their procedures rescheduled based on their medical needs. Some surgeries have been relocated within the facility, located at 1201 NW 16th St., in order to minimize potential risks and ensure patient safety.
Nurses said this incident marked the second time that the heat caused patients to be moved around.
“This is the veterans’ hospital. It’s our federal hospital, where our patients, our veterans, they deserve so much better than this,” Paraiso said.
In the meantime, Paraiso said, portable AC units are being used as a short-term fix.
“On several units right now, there’s spot chillers, and even that, they still constantly – we still have to monitor the temperature, because we don’t know how long those spot chillers will hold up,” said Paraiso.
South Florida has been in an excessive heat warning advisory for the past six days. A heat warning is when a heat index, or “feels like” temperatures, sustains 110 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for at least two hours.
Outside of the hospital, people had to cut their runs short as the heat was deemed unbearable for the average Miamian. One woman who was walking her dog said she was exercising caution because of her pet.
Some people who live not far from the VA also dealt with AC issues.
“As much as you put the temperature that you want, the vapor from the heat of the sun that comes off the wall is so strong,” said a resident in Spanish.
7News has learned the hospital’s 11th and 12th floors will likely remain closed for five days.
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