CHARLESTON — Satisfied that inquiries have unearthed no evidence of wrongdoing, Gov. Joe Manchin has no intention of naming a special legislative panel to investigate alleged criminal activities at Pinecrest Hospital.

Sen. Russ Weeks, R-Raleigh, called a news conference last Friday in the midst of the special session, asking the governor for a bipartisan commission to look into the state-run facility in Beckley.

Once run as a tuberculosis hospital, the institution now is devoted largely to long-term care.

“The concerns in question have been investigated several times, by several different organizations,” Manchin’s communications director, Lara Ramsburg, said Wednesday.

She pointed to inquiries by the Legislature, the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Health and Human Resources, the Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a Raleigh County grand jury — all drawing a blank.

In addition, Ramsburg said, Pinecrest has been investigated by the Office of Environmental Health.

“And they found no evidence of wrongdoing,” she said.

“So having had these investigations take place in a very thorough and independent manner, we will stand by those findings.”

Manchin’s decision angered but didn’t surprise the senator.

“I’ve been running into stone walls and lies ever since I got started on this,” Weeks said.

“This goes too deep in state government and they do not want it come out.”

Weeks was miffed the governor decided against an investigation without discussing Pinecrest with him.

“He’s taking the word of staff,” he said.

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Weeks said he had proof that installation of a through-the-wall air conditioning system compromised negative airflow, allowing TB germs to seep into the main hospital over a three-year period, from 2001 to 2004, before the matter was corrected.

William Carey, president of NQ Environmental Inc., the firm which made the negative airflow system, confirmed by a Sept. 8 letter and follow-up phone call Tuesday night that because of the air conditioners, “the integrity of the isolation rooms, as well as the entire ward,” possibly had been compromised, the senator said.

“Does the governor want to sit back and take a chance that maybe I’m right?” Weeks asked.

“I have irrefutable evidence that what I said is correct. He should hear all the evidence before making a judgment like that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is a cover-up going on there. Does the governor want to take a chance whether I’m right or wrong?”

Weeks said he planned to telephone Manchin and ask for a one-on-one meeting in hopes of reversing his decision since the governor needs to be informed about the grand jury investigation.

“I will show him I’m right,” the senator said.

“If I’m right, we are infecting a lot of people with a deadly TB germ. Does he want to take that chance?”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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