Four of the 14 operating rooms at Seattle Children’s are closed after a common mold was detected last weekend. Dozens of surgeries have been rescheduled or moved.
The Aspergillus mold was found in the operating rooms after a routine check. Hospital officials don’t know when the rooms could reopen.
“Patient safety is our top priority, and we are taking this situation very seriously,” said Alyse Bernal, Seattle Children’s public-relations manager. “All affected operating rooms have been closed and will remain so until we are confident that the areas are clear of Aspergillus.”
About 50 surgeries scheduled for the impacted rooms have either been rescheduled, moved to Children’s Bellevue campus or will be performed in other rooms on the Seattle campus, such as the cardiac catheterization facility. At least two surgeries are being moved to Harborview Medical Center.
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. But people with weakened immune systems or lung disease are at a higher risk of developing complications from the mold.
The risk to surgical patients is believed to be “extremely low,” Bernal said, but the hospital is contacting about 3,000 patients who had surgical procedures in the past four months.
Children’s is working with an industrial hygienist to determine how the mold got into the operating rooms and has begun testing the air for contaminants weekly instead of quarterly. Once it is clear how the mold found its way into the operating rooms, the hospital will implement measures to ensure the situation is resolved, Bernal said.
Children’s follows strict cleaning protocols along with regular deep cleaning of operating rooms and the equipment in those rooms, including an antimicrobial cleaner after each surgery and at the end of the day, Bernal said. The air is filtered in rooms where surgeries are performed, and those rooms are kept under positive pressure, which makes the air flow out of the operating rooms and helps keep airborne microorganisms at bay, she said.
Patients and their families can contact Children’s at 206-987-2550 if they have questions.