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School janitor: mould made me sick

Mould concern: Francis Patton Primary School (Google Image)

A school janitor who claimed he was infected with mould at Francis Patton Primary School has criticised the pace of the Government’s response.

Omar Smith, 51, said blood tests had confirmed he had mould in his bloodstream and that he was prepared to take legal action.

He added: “This is not about money. It’s the principle and how this situation has been put out to the public.”

He said he now had to wear a surgical mask at work and used an inhaler to help him breathe.

Mr Smith has also suffered sweating, headaches and stomach pain since he became ill a few weeks after he started work at the school last August.

Mr Smith said he had seen an inspection report for the Hamilton Parish school written in September last year, which highlighted mould contamination in several areas of the school.

The report recommended the problem should be dealt with by the end of this summer.

Mr Smith said: “I wouldn’t want anyone to go through this — we have kids as young as 5 and 6 in that school.”

Mr Smith spoke out after an article in Friday’s edition of The Royal Gazette highlighted a report from October 2017 that outlined health and safety problems in the public schools system.

The Francis Patton report from six months ago flagged up a “mould stench” in the school’s janitorial supplies store and mould contamination in the principal’s office and several other rooms.

The report concluded that “the majority of the school’s facilities have been deemed relatively safe and do not pose any immediate threat to the safety, health and wellbeing of teachers or students at this time”.

However, Mr Smith said yesterday: “How can it be safe if I am sick?”

He said he had been off ill last week but, despite getting a doctor’s letter that advised he should be moved elsewhere, he had received no word on a transfer.

Mr Smith said: “Mould affects everybody differently. It came as a surprise — I was sweating, then I had problems with my stomach, and headaches.

“I got blood tests this month and found that I have mould actually inside my system.”

He said the age of the building contributed to the problem and that the ministry was “trying to tread lightly with a lot of issues”.

Mr Smith added: “There’s so much that they’re dealing with, such as the new grading system. But I think this is more severe.”

The report seen by The Royal Gazette last week said that all schools had some level of mould contamination, but that there were no major safety concerns.

Mr Smith said: “Nobody has said anything about Francis Patton, which is why I’m putting this out there.

“At the end of the day, I am a credible witness. It needs to be sorted out now.”

The Francis Patton report said mould concerns would be “jointly addressed” by the ministries of public works and education by the end of the summer.

Mr Smith added he decided to speak out in a bid to get the problem fixed sooner and that he had also alerted the Bermuda Union of Teachers.

He said: “I am putting this out there because it’s a bad situation for everybody, especially the kids.

“Things need to be appreciated on a higher level.”

Mr Smith added: “I am a parent, too. I have a daughter who goes to Paget Primary and a son at Victor Scott. Knowing that I am infected with mould, I have concerns for all the kids.”

A spokeswoman for the education ministry said officials were “aware of the health and safety report for Francis Patton, as we are for all schools”.

She added: “Some works have already taken place or are under way and other issues will be tackled during our scheduled summer works.”

The spokeswoman confirmed the ministry had received a report from Mr Smith about the school a week ago and was “in the process of addressing that report”.