Seattle Children’s closes operating rooms because of mold

Initially IT only shut down four of the rooms but has since closed off the other 10.

By Elise Takahama / The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — Seattle Children’s hospital has closed all 14 of its main operating rooms as it continues to work on removing the mold that was detected in its facilities a month ago, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The hospital detected traces of Aspergillus mold in several operating and equipment storage rooms May 18, Seattle Children’s spokeswoman Kathryn Mueller said in an email to The Seattle Times on Sunday.

“Aspergillus is a common mold often present in the air we breathe,” Mueller wrote in the email. “However, in rare instances it can cause complications for surgical patients.”

Seattle Children’s initially only shut down four of the rooms but has since closed off the other 10, Mueller said. The risk to surgical patients is “very low,” she said, but the hospital has contacted all patients who might have been exposed to the mold.

Aspergillus is a mold that can live indoors or outside, and most people breathe Aspergillus spores daily without getting sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Times reported in May. But people with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of developing infections in the lungs or sinuses, which could spread to other parts of the body, from the mold.

When outside industrial hygienists assessed the air quality last month, they found “deficiencies in (its) air handlers,” Mueller said.

Since then, Seattle Children’s officials have implemented several improvements, she said: They switched to an updated and sanitized air handler, installed a new humidification system, sealed potential sources of air leaks in operating rooms, cleaned all the affected spaces several times and implemented new cleaning processes ? — including one that uses ultraviolet light to disinfect surfaces.

She said she wasn’t sure how long the operating rooms would be closed.

Seattle Children’s surgeons are still performing a few operations at the main campus, such as in the cardiac catheterization facility, and some surgeries were moved to the Bellevue campus. The majority of operations, however, were redirected to Harborview Medical Center, the University of Washington Medical Center, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and Swedish Medical Center, Mueller said.

Several Seattle Children’s surgeons and anesthesiologists obtained additional credentials to perform operations at the other area hospitals, she said.

“Seattle Children’s is committed to maintaining a safe environment for our patients,” Mueller wrote in an email. “We are sorry for the impact the air quality issue in our operating rooms has had on our patients and families, and we are taking this situation very seriously.”

Patients and their families can contact Children’s at 206-987-2550 if they have questions.

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