SEATTLE, Wash. – The CEO of Seattle Children’s Hospital says they’ve linked 5 more deaths to mold in operating rooms.
Dr. Jeff Sperring says he’s learned that between 2001 and 2014, seven children at the hospital developed infections from the Aspergillus mold and five of them died from it.
He says they thought they were isolated incidents, but the belief now is that they were caused by the air handling systems in the OR’s.
The latest deaths are in addition to the seven infections and one death since the Summer of 2018.
10 OR’s will remain closed until a new filtration system is installed. That’s expected to be by the end of January.
This is a heartbreaking time for all of us at Seattle Children’s. The work we do here is all about kids and their families. Patients, families and the community rely on us to provide safe, quality care. We’ve let them down.
We have been working to prevent Aspergillus infections in our operating rooms. To date, we have not been successful. Today, I am outlining our plan for comprehensive improvements to make our operating rooms safe.
First, I need to apologize. I apologize to the patients who developed infections and to their families. This is devastating for them – and for us. I apologize to all of our patients who depend on us and have been impacted; to every mom, dad or caregiver who has placed their confidence in us; to our community who has trusted us for 112 years; and to our team whose sole focus is the health and safety of our kids.
My job as CEO is to make this right and fix the problem so we can get back to taking care of the children who need us. We have a critical role in the community – and we take this responsibility incredibly seriously. We are here every day to do the right thing for patients and families. Patient safety is our highest priority.
As we have previously shared, Seattle Children’s has had seven Aspergillus surgical site infections since the summer of 2018. We are deeply saddened that one of those patients died.
As we have looked more closely at our history of Aspergillus infections, we believe there are connections between recent and past infections. Between 2001 and 2014, seven patients developed Aspergillus surgical site infections. Tragically, five of those patients died.
At the time, we believed most of these were isolated infections. However, we now believe that these infections were likely caused by the air handling systems that serve our operating rooms. Looking back, we should have recognized these connections sooner. As CEO, I hold myself – and Seattle Children’s – to a higher standard.
On Nov. 10, air-test results detected the presence of Aspergillus in several of our operating rooms. Shortly after, I made the decision to temporarily close most of our operating rooms at our main campus until the end of January to complete comprehensive improvements to our air-handling system. We are taking this decisive step because it is the best way to protect our patients.
During this period, Seattle Children’s will install a new rooftop air handler as well as custom-built, in-room high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in every operating room and adjacent supply area. HEPA is an extremely effective filtration system that removes 99.97 percent of particles from the air that passes through the filter. This is the highest level of filtration found in operating rooms today. These operating rooms will remain closed until the enhancements are fully in place.
In addition to addressing the air-quality issues in our operating rooms, we will conduct a rigorous, thorough review of the factors that led to this situation. Among other issues, we will examine our culture, our leadership, and how our teams communicate problems and escalate concerns.
We are continuing to engage with external experts to make sure we are doing everything possible to improve the safety of our care.
During this temporary closure of most of our operating rooms, Seattle Children’s will perform surgeries at partner hospitals including Harborview, Swedish, UW Medical Center and Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital.
We work hard to earn the trust of our community every day. We never take that for granted. We will do everything in our power to get this right, and we will not stop until we do. That’s what our community expects. That’s what our patients need and deserve.