Dear Providers,

We are deeply sorry for the impact the air quality issues in our operating rooms (ORs) continue to have on our patients and families. Aspergillus is again present in some of our ORs. Out of an abundance of caution, we have closed all main ORs at our main campus in order to investigate the air handling system and take corrective actions. Seattle Children’s remains committed to doing what’s right to keep our patients safe.

The duration of the OR closures is still being determined.

We have provided a Q&A below to help answer your questions. We will update you again when we have new information to share.

Dr. Mark Del Beccaro, SVP and Chief Medical Officer

Mady Murrey, SVP and Chief Clinical Officer

Dr. Jeff Ojemann, SVP and Surgeon-in-Chief

 

What is happening?

On November 10, routine air tests detected Aspergillus in three operating rooms and two procedural areas. Aspergillus is a common mold often present in the air we breathe. However, in some instances it can cause complications for surgical patients.

What are we doing in response?

We have closed all main ORs at our main campus. The duration of the operating room closures is still being determined.

Some surgical cases may be postponed, diverted to other local hospitals temporarily, or performed at one of our community-partner sites by Seattle Children’s surgeons who have privileges at that site. We will perform some procedures at our Bellevue Surgery Center or at other sites on our main campus that are not in the main ORs.

We have also self-reported the issue to the Washington State Department of Health and Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Have patients been affected?

We recently confirmed one new Aspergillus surgical site infection, and continue to investigate one other potential infection.

How does this affect patients who are referred to the ER with possible surgical needs?

Please continue to refer patients by calling our ED Communications Center at 206-987-8899. We will review potential surgical patients on a case-by-case basis with the appropriate surgical specialists and with our Surgeon-in-Chief.

How does this affect patients currently scheduled for surgery at Seattle Children’s?

Our surgery coordinators will be contacting families to help them reschedule their procedures. We will review surgical patients on a case-by-case basis with the appropriate surgical specialists and with our Surgeon-in-Chief. If a family contacts you with a question about their child’s scheduled surgery, please ask them to call their surgery clinic at Seattle Children’s for assistance.

We understand the impact that postponing surgeries has on our patients and families, and are deeply sorry for the inconvenience. We are grateful for our families’ understanding and your partnership and support during this period.

What should PCPs be monitoring for?

Signs of Aspergillus infection may include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling or drainage from the surgical site or fever
  • Neurosurgery patients might experience headache or a stiff neck.

If you have a clinical concern, you may call the Provider-to-Provider Line at 206-987-7777 and ask to speak to Infectious Disease.

What is causing Aspergillus to be present in the operating rooms?

At this time, the source of Aspergillus in the operating rooms is unknown and we are actively investigating.

What did Seattle Children’s do previously to address its air quality issues?

During the summer of 2019, we implemented multiple improvements recommended by outside industrial hygiene experts. These included:

  • Removing our previous air handling and purification system and switching to a newer air handler, which has been upgraded, cleaned, sanitized and tested to verify proper performance.
  • Installing and testing a new humidification system.
  • Sealing potential sources of air leaks in all of the operating rooms.
  • Extensively and repeatedly deep cleaning all of our operating rooms and core rooms.
  • Adding a new device to our operating room cleaning protocol that emits ultraviolet light to disinfect surfaces.
  • Continuing to monitor and test our air handling system in an effort to maintain a safe environment for our patients.

To validate that our operating rooms were safe for patient care, this summer we invited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Washington Department of Health and Public Health – Seattle & King County to tour our facilities, assess our safety protocols and share in our learnings. They confirmed we have taken appropriate actions to reduce the risk of future Aspergillus infections.

Where should I direct families who have questions?

If your patient or family has a concern, please ask them to visit our website for the most up-to-date information or call 206-987-2550. If they need an interpreter, they may call 866-583-1527 and ask to be connected to this number: 7-2550.

What if I have more questions?

If you would like to speak with Seattle Children’s leadership team directly, please contact Dr. Jeff Ojemann, Seattle Children’s Surgeon-in-Chief (206-987-2544 or Jeffrey.Ojemann@seattlechildrens.org). You may also contact Seattle Children’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Mark Del Beccaro (206-987-2005 or mark.delbeccaro@seattlechildrens.org).

If you have an urgent clinical concern, please call the Provider-to-Provider Line at 206-987-7777 and ask to speak to the specific surgical service on call.