BVI News

Public servants not coming to work; prioritize mould issue

Geraldine Ritter-Freeman

Acting Chief Immigration Officer Geraldine Ritter-Freeman has said an increasing number of public servants are not showing up for work because of an incessant mould issue plaguing government offices.

The high-ranking government official is now calling for immediate solutions for the problem.

While responding to the concerns, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Deputy Governor’s Office, Carolyn Stoutt-Igwe agreed that the working conditions were unfavourable and said the problem would be addressed.

However, Ritter-Freeman suggested that the acting permanent secretary was downplaying the issue.

“That (the mould issue) should not be minimized in any shape or form because there are serious cost implications as it relates to the existing structures that all of us are forced to work in … The fact is, a lot of the spaces have been compromised and the issue of health and safety should be paramount,” said Ritter-Freeman.

Make a priority

While speaking yesterday during a public consultation on the proposed recovery plan for the British Virgin Islands, Ritter-Freeman said the issue of mould should be part of in the recovery plan.

“I don’t see it in the document, but it should be prioritized and be taken at the utmost level in terms of prioritizing. As head of a [government] department, I am already seeing that leave forms are coming in with regards to persons who are being adversely affected by mould, etcetera,” she said.

“Human resources are our greatest assets and once we begin to underlook or underestimate the impact of the mould situation that we are facing in some of these spaces, I think it would be dire for us in the future.”

Policy to go before Cabinet in two weeks

While commenting further on the issue, Stoutt-Igwe said the government plans to make half of the Central Administration Complex in Road Town “habitable” while government works on a more “permanent solution for the other half.”

Acting Permanent Secretary in the Deputy Governor’s Office, Carolyn Stoutt-Igwe

The permanent secretary claimed there were efforts in the last two years to implement a ‘Health and Safety Policy’ but the initiative was delayed because John Duncan was serving his final moments as governor.

She said Governor Agustus Jaspert will be taking on the task.

“We are taking that policy forward. It is on the agenda and because of all the concerns that are coming forward, we are advancing that within the next two weeks to the Cabinet,” Stoutt-Igwe said.

Ritter-Freeman, however, was not satisfied and wanted immediate results.

“Four months have gone and people are sitting in mould-affected areas and now we are starting to feel the fallout because leave forms are coming in and persons are just not coming to work because they say they are getting sick,” she lamented.

“There has to be something more immediate than putting forward a policy.”

Stoutt-Igwe then said she would raise the issue at the senior management level to determine the extent of the problem and the number of affected departments.

She said she will also evaluate the cost and the contractors who tackle moulding.

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  1. Albion says:

    Boy, I never met any person more shy about coming to work and doing their job than a Government worker. Stop paying them, and we see how concerned they really are about mold then.

  2. HMPH says:

    Many Givt departments are more efficient because the difficult and obstructive staff are the ones staying away. Hopefully GOVT is examining what Jose staff actually do and is considering redundancy for the non performers.

  3. Laura says:

    Mold will become the next asbestos. A word that every lawyer will be smiling at too. Lawsuits will be high, what will government do to limit their legal liability?

    A quick and thorough remediation plan should be carried out immediately.Don’t wait for one or two people to fall ill and die to ramp up the process, do it now (albeit it should have been done at least two months ago).This is the real cost of doing nothing. Problems keep coming with no means of forecasting when or the severity of the issues. We wait and then react. It’s time to STOP the “do-nothing” culture and Be proactive not reactive.

    • Sorry says:

      Not a lot of mold litigation in the US court these days comparatively speaking.

      • Watcher says:

        I have lived all over the world and never heard of this mold phobia anywhere else. When did the last person die of mold poisoning? Where are these mold cause of death court cases? Spray some bleach. Get a grip.

        Any excuse not to work.

  4. Go Geraldine!!! says:

    This takes guts and I applaud you for speaking out!!!

  5. B Savage says:

    Well you should visite the lobby and pharmcy of Peebles. THOSE EMPLOYEES WORKING IN 1950 SOUTHERN SLAVERY CONDITION. You could see the sweat and shinny foreheads from a mile away. Fell sorry for them they probably get fired if they complain.

  6. helma says:

    I agree with her she being there before as GIS head so she knows the building is a sick building with, plenty mold. You go there you cant breath. , stuffy, eyes running water, doctor tells you, you have lugs like a 90 year old and you only 25yrs old, the dam govt don’t care for employees, employees have to look for themselves UK HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT will put them to shame. Wait till you see some lawsuits they will shape up.

  7. TurtleDove says:

    My question would be be, did these two educated women sit down and discuss this? The prudent thing to do is discuss and come up with a plan to correct the problem. Maybe its me but I just don’t like to see bickering in the news from the very people who should be fixing the problem.

  8. @Turtle Dove says:

    Public servants were asked to attend a public meeting to give their feedback on the Recovery Plan. Her comments formed part of the feedback given. There were other public servants that gave feedback aswell.

    • TurtleDove says:

      To: @Turtle Dove

      Thanks for the clarification but I would have still handled it differently. You see when you are elevated to those positions you become part of a team environment and one should act accordingly. I would only show my frustration after I have exhausted all internal means. I see this with the ministers as well.

  9. Seems says:

    as though too many are resorting to blameless or blame-full issues, things, conditions and events with a hidden agenda.

    Is there really mold in sufficient amounts to make the body ill? or are some simply finding an excuse to abuse their employee’s purse by staying home and enjoying their time there?

    Was mold an issue great enough that caused many to boycott their place of employ from 1960 to pre-Irma? or this a modern phenomenon? Do less for more.

    The BVI is located in hurricane ally, where changing weather and atmospheric conditions and currents are daily revolving occurrences.

    However, mold has never appear such a problem yesterday, with the same or more amounts of rain fall, as it is today.

    • Diaspora says:

      Are you a doctor? And if so have you examined the employees? True, it is your opinion but how can you responsibly say that employees are feigning illnesses? Exposure to mold can result in a series of health issues. Some toxic mould can be deadly.

  10. BVI concern says:

    H. Lavity Stoutt Community College also has a mold issue that needs to be addressed, mold is nothing to play with, person’s health and lives are at stake.

  11. @Turtle Dove says:

    Public servants were asked to attend a meeting to give their feedback on the Recovery Plan. There were other public servants and HODs that gave feedback aswell. This was their opportunity to speak out on the way forward. The media, as usual, will try to make it look like they were at war but this was not the case.

  12. E. Leonard says:

    Government as other employers are morally bound to provide employees with a safe, healthy and secure working environment. Exposure to mold infestation in facilities/building poses a health risk for employees, customers, visitors…….etc. In addition to health risks, mold infestation lowers productivity (high rate of absenteeism), increase operational cost and burden the medical system. Employers must make every effort to prevent mold infestation/growth. But once infestation occurs, it needs to be urgently remediated. What factors contribute to mold infestation?

    For mold growth to occur, three primary things are needed (mold triangle): mold spores, food sources, and moisture. Control any one leg of the mold (mould) triangle and mold infestation can be prevented/controlled. Mold spores are present in abundance in both the indoor and outdoor environment. So too are food sources that are also prevalent, ie, sheetrock, wood, fabric, upholstery, plant, soil…….etc.

    Thus, controlling moisture is the most practical way to prevent and/or control mold growth. Moisture sources include roof leaks, wall/window leaks, floor leaks, plumbing leaks, high humidity, air conditioning system defects, ie, condensate drain pans…….etc. Find and fix the moisture sources and remediate the mold growth to return buildings to safe, healthy and secure working environments, avoiding building related illness (BRI) , sick building syndrome(SBS) and enhancing employee productivity and reducing absenteeism. Make coming to work fun again. True, these are the Cliff Notes procedures but worth employing.

    • Quiet Storm says:

      @ E. Leonard, is mold control that simple? If so why is it such a growing problem in the BVI, especially in government buildings? So if we can prevent the leaks for the most part mold or mould would vanish? Cliff Notes. Lol.

      • E.Leonard says:

        @Quiet Storm, based on the/my mold triangle theory, preventing/fixing roof leaks, plumbing leaks and other moisture sources will go a long way in addressing mold growth. Additionally, any mold growth also need to be remediated to address the exposure issue. Exposure to mold present health risk and mold growth needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Government needs to be highly responsive to complaints of mold infestation.

  13. Uup says:

    Because it has been left to it’s hard

  14. Really? says:

    Not to quibble with what Mrs.Freeman is saying but surely those who are not showing up have had permission to do so……if this this is not the case then they have effectively abandoned their employment!

  15. Local says:

    Great Ms Ritter-Freeman health and safety in this country not taken seriously

  16. Dem tink is joke says:

    The reality of Mrs. Freeman’s comments is that persons are literally becoming affected with the conditions that they have been subjected to on the job. Not only government but other private employers as well. Who feels it knows it.

    Those who don’t know, take a visit to the Central Administration Complex and see first hand what government employees are exposed to. Shameful to know my little bit of tax dollars can’t even help. Persons’ health are at risk. I was looking for an office just a few weeks ago only to be told that it was closed because everyone was sick. If that was true, that requires “prioritizing” as Mrs. Freeman said. These things are not to be taken lightly.

    Wherever persons are subjected to these conditions, I hope there is some resolve. The health risks and the legal backlash from such situations can be more devastating that a CAT 5. Guess the slang “open for business” doesn’t care how personnel are treated nor what conditions persons are expected to work in.

  17. Lily Ann says:

    Fire them … or stop paying them and see how quick they cone back to work !!!

  18. Dim Sum says:

    Poor design coupled with bad construction facilitates building related illnesses (SBS) – fact not fiction. Occupational respiratory illnesses such as those related to mold are on the increase due to the public’s knowledge/awareness of the subject in recent times. Persons whom never had prior respiratory illnesses (asthma etc.) are now finding themselves with such due to unhealthy working environments. The BVI Government are well aware of the issues as well as the majority of commercial landlords operating within Road Town’s business area. What is the Ministry of Health doing to protect the workers, students at the various schools that are contaminated? Nada, zip, zilch, zero…zzzzzzz…they are fast asleep on this issue. When the medical conditions worsen and affect the neurological pathways -look trouble for those dealing with the symptoms. Class action law-suits are the only way these and other issues will be dealt with as vociferously as we throw away good money at bad projects/pet projects. Also mold loves organic surfaces to reproduce on – always check those closely. Avoid cross-contamination of spaces also.

  19. 8th District Gyal says:

    @Turtle Dove; why should they have discussed the matter privately, are they the only ones impacted? This is a serious public health issue. This building (and others) have been “sick” for quite some time now. “Sick” buildings not only impacts employees, but visitors as well. And negatively impact associated costs and productivity. We need to know what’s going on.

  20. Um says:

    Instead of staying home after the hurricane those workers should have gone to their wirkplace and clean it up but no they will now stay home AGAIN and get pay and im sure some island ppl will have to do the clean up.

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