Burglary Causes HazMat Incident at Connecticut Hospital

MARY O'LEARY, New Haven Register

NEW HAVEN - An intruder, possibly looking to cool off by stealing an air conditioner from a wing of the former Hospital of St. Raphael, generated a hazmat response when the initial report came in as a possible spill of a radio-isotope.

"There was no release of any radio-isotope," Assistant Fire Chief Mark Vendetto said late Saturday morning.

The incident was called in just before 8 a.m., when a security worker doing rounds in the basement of a building that formerly was part of St. Raphael's Hospital, found a "compromised window" and reported it to police, according to Nicholas Proto, who heads up the security division.

It led to a full hazmat response by the New Haven Police and Fire departments, who were on the scene for about four hours with streets blocked to traffic on a portion of Chapel and George streets in the area of St. Raphael's.

"At this time, it does not appear the burglar broke in for anything other than possibly an air conditioner or other household items," Assistant Chief Racheal Cain said in a press conference on George Street just before noon.

She said it appeared that no chemicals were taken from the area.

Vendetto said there was not a great danger to the burglar.

"It has a very short shelf life," he said of the medical-grade isotope.

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St. Raphael's was taken over by Yale New Haven Hospital in 2012 and its facilities are now part of Yale New Haven Hospital.

Vendetto said the incident occurred in the area of the Engineering Department in the basement of the building along George Street.

He said the seven individuals who were working in the immediate area were isolated by fire personnel and checked for radiation.

"There were zero readings," Vendetto said.

No patients needed to be evacuated.

Vendetto said everyone who came out of the hospital from that area was metered through a radiological portal. They then disrobed in a private tent and were metered again.

"There was no contamination on any individual who left the hospital," he said.

The material was a medical radio-isotope that is injected into patients. "There is no public health risk," Vendetto said.

"All the medical isotopes are contained. Nothing was contaminated. There is no cross contamination whatsoever in the hospital," Vendetta said. "No medical isotopes were released."

The criminal investigation started before noon after fire personnel cleared the scene. "It tied up a lot of people," Vendetta said of the incident.

"The Fire Department did an excellent job of clearing the scene," Cain said.

There was a slight diversion for kidney dialysis patients and for the emergency room at that facility for about an hour before it was lifted, according to Vendetto.

Credit: By Mary O'Leary, moleary@nhregister.com, @nhrmoleary on Twitter

 

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