Health Care

Mold, bad pipes, weak floors: State blocked construction at JoCo surgical center

The Kansas state fire marshal issued a rare cease-and-desist order for construction of a Lenexa surgical center, citing serious problems with the center’s design and sterility.

Doug Jorgensen lifted the order last month after the Minimially Invasive Surgical Hospital and Clinics agreed to keep the systems for medical gas, fire alarms and sprinklers uncovered until his office had inspected and approved them.

Jorgensen, reached by phone in Topeka, said his office does inspections every day and seldom has to issue such an order.

“Very unusual,” Jorgensen said. “We do thousands of facilities a year and I probably issue a handful of cease-and-desist orders in a year’s time.”

Jorgensen said they’re usually only necessary when facilities resist other attempts to bring them into compliance with building codes.

Scott Hunter, an attorney representing the surgical center, emphasized that the fire marshal’s order pertained only to the new clinic under construction at 10951 Lakeview Ave., not the existing clinic at 11217 Lakeview Ave.

“There are no patients and no staff in that building, as construction is not completed,” Hunter said via email. “The cease and desist order does not pertain to the current hospital, and there are no violations against the current building.”

Hunter said his client had addressed all the issues raised by the fire marshal’s report, but didn’t think it was necessary for him to order a halt to construction.

“Certainly we disagree that a cease-and-desist order was appropriate,” Hunter said, noting again that the facility wasn’t open yet. “There was no issue that was going to cause danger to anybody.”

The business is a physician-owned outpatient surgical center that advertises gastric bypass weight loss surgery and a host of other services for pain management and orthopedic issues.

The fire marshal’s order said that on July 11 an inspector found several concerning problems at the new build, including:

Medical gas piping not correctly installed, including improperly soldered joints. “The entire project has not been installed in a workmanlike manner,” the order said.

Floor panels on the third story of the facility — where weight loss surgery will be performed — that were only rated to hold 200 pounds, “posing a substantial risk of injury to both patients and staff.”

Mold in four out of eight operating rooms, again putting the health of patients and staff at risk. “Moisture is present on the floor throughout the entire building, and mold is extensive throughout the basement,” the report said.

Walls that did not match the construction plans and hard ceilings installed prior to inspection, covering items inspectors would need to see.

Jorgensen lifted the cease-and-desist order after meeting with representatives of the hospital and William and William Construction, the firm building the facility. The document lifting his previous order said the parties agreed to a construction plan that will “reduce the risk of loss of life and property from fire and explosion.”

“Once we had that meeting and everybody was on the same page going forward on what we needed to do, I rescinded that order,” Jorgensen said. “So they’re back in full construction mode.”

But Charles Kraft of William and William Construction did not seem to be on that page when reached by phone this week.

Kraft said most of what was in the fire marshal’s report was “not accurate,” and litigation may be coming.

“I assure you, what appears on the surface is not what is,” Kraft said.

The fire marshal isn’t the only government agency to express concerns about the surgical center building project.

In February, the city of Lenexa ordered William and William Construction to stop working, citing numerous code violations.

Among the issues, inspectors found the general contractor was not adequately supervising the project; doors were padlocked from the outside while workers were inside; the mechanical contractor and designer had not been providing oversight; and “significant construction and design changes” violated city code.

Building Codes Administrator Matt Souders wrote that the most “pressing and fundamental” issue was the city had not received a current and accurate set of approved plans, or the required structural inspection reports. The city approved a construction plan in 2016, but officials claim work done since then deviated from it in numerous architectural, structural, mechanical and safety aspects.

The city repeatedly asked for amended construction documents for more than one year before issuing the stop work order. Officials demanded accurate construction documents, verified compliance with city code and structural inspection reports. The order was lifted in April, and since then, city staff and the business have worked together, attempting to correct construction and inspection issues.

Hunter said it’s not unusual for changes to occur in the middle of major construction projects, and though his client didn’t agree that the city’s stop-work order was necessary, it addressed all of the city’s concerns.

“There was some back-and-forth with the city on that,” Hunter said. “Ultimately that was resolved. … We believe the finished building will certainly be safe and code-compliant.”

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Kansas City Star health reporter Andy Marso was part of a Pulitzer Prize-finalist team at The Star and previously won state and regional awards at the Topeka Capital-Journal and Kansas Health Institute News Service. He has written two books, including one about his near-fatal bout with meningitis.