Biowaste, medical records among items left behind in abandoned Jeannette hospital


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Cabinets and drawers were full; beds neatly made.

Only people were missing from Jeannette's Monsour Medical Center after it closed. No doctors, nurses, patients or visitors wandered through hallways or rushed in and out of rooms.

Since 2006, the hospital has stood abandoned along Route 30, filled with the items it should have -- from needles to medical records -- but only the occasional vagrant, vandal, scrapper or thrill-seeker would know it.

In recent years, the site has rapidly deteriorated.

Former patients' medical information and biowaste -- including syringes and blood and tissue samples -- have been found on site, creating security and safety concerns.

But some have hope for the abandoned property.

"We see it as developable and part of economic viability for the city of Jeannette," said solicitor Scott Avolio, who grew up in the city.

Demolition of the cylindrical building and private development of the six- to eight-acre plot can increase opportunity for the community, he said, adding that people interested in such development call weekly.

But a question remains: Who is responsible for the property?

The board of the nonprofit that operated the hospital when it closed no longer exists, as members have either resigned or died, Mr. Avolio said. It's also unclear who was on the board when the hospital closed.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has visited the site four times in the past two years to assist in clean up, said John Poister, a DEP spokesman.

A contractor recently removed medical slides and barrels of items such as needles and syringes, he said.

The DEP estimates it has spent about $20,000 removing such biowaste.

"There is a responsible party somewhere in this mess of entanglements," Mr. Poister said. Once that party steps forward, he said, the DEP is required to seek repayment.

Meanwhile, Mr. Avolio said the city awaits direction from the attorney general on what to do with patients' medical records strewn about the place.

In 2006, Monsour Medical Center's doors closed after failing to renew accreditation, he said, meaning the hospital was ineligible to receive payments from sources such as Social Security and Medicare.

Hospital officials may have hoped that someone could pick up where they left off and reuse the space, he said, but now that six years have passed, that would require a substantial investment.

"People shunned responsibility and, obviously, now don't want to raise their heads up," he said. "I don't believe it was intentional, but it adds to the overall blight, and there is no one individual who can do anything."

Mr. Avolio said Monsour Hospital is "holding the community back quite a bit."

The property is the only part of Jeannette bordering Route 30, and the town is unable to use the space to create jobs or to help bolster the local economy.

The former hospital appears on many websites that publicize abandoned and deserted places.

"This was a complete hospital abandoned with everything in it. You would still see desks and beds, just left there, and that in itself is kind of precedent-setting," Mr. Poister said.

Safety concerns are not exclusively for those who illegally enter the abandoned hospital but also for police and firefighters. "The traffic of individuals in and out means they can become injured and repeatedly put firefighters and police in danger," Mr. Avolio said.

Five fires have been set at the building since it closed, and five people have been charged with trespassing, he said.

People visit or scrap the site on a "regular basis," he said, adding that with increased publicity, such activity has become "collateral damage."

Locals remain "disappointed and frustrated that it's been left to rot," Mr. Avolio said.

A social media campaign on Facebook, "Tear Down Monsour Hospital," has 965 supporters, and states simply: "The time has come to tear it down."

neigh_east - neigh_westmoreland

Lexi Belculfine: lbelculfine@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1316. Twitter: @LexiBelc.


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