Provider FAQs

Updated 12/31/19

Q: How should we refer patients with possible surgical needs?

A: 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. We still expect to have capacity for emergency cases. We will continue to divert some cases to other local hospitals and perform additional surgeries at our Bellevue Clinic and Surgery Center.

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

A: Over the coming days and weeks, 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 are also telling families in clinics to anticipate longer than normal wait times when trying to schedule their surgeries, and that they are welcome to speak to their PCP if they would rather schedule somewhere else instead of waiting.  

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.

Q: Will my patient’s surgery get cancelled?

A: This will depend on the type of surgery or procedure. Coordinators from the Surgery Center will call patients and families to give updates about rescheduled or postponed surgeries.

Q: If my patient’s surgery was cancelled or postponed, will they need to get a new referral to reschedule?

A: This will depend on their clinic and/or surgery. If their clinic has requested a new referral for rescheduling their surgery, we will ask them follow-up with their PCP.

Q: My patient’s surgery has been postponed for a long time. How soon can they reschedule?

A: We are sorry about this continued delay. The timing of rescheduling procedures is determined by several factors, including how soon the surgery needs to be done (based on discussions with their attending provider). Over the coming days and weeks, their clinic will contact them to give them an update.

Q: Where should I direct families who have questions?

A: 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.

Q: What happened?

A: On November 10, 2019, routine air tests detected Aspergillus in three operating rooms and two procedural areas.

Q: What are you doing in response?

A: On November 13, 2019, we closed our main operating rooms (ORs) at the hospital to inspect our air handling system and determine the appropriate corrective actions. After careful consideration and consultation with outside experts, we decided to proceed with the immediate installation of custom in-room HEPA filtration in 10 ORs and two equipment storage rooms, and to continue with the planned installation of the new air handling system.

On December 10, 2019, we temporarily closed all of our main operating rooms so that workers could move the new rooftop air-handling unit into place.

On December 30, 2019, we completed the latest step in the installation process of the new air-handling unit and reopened the 3 operating rooms that already have in-room HEPA filtration.

Q: What happens next?

A: Over the next several weeks, work will continue with installation of the new air-handling unit as well as installation of in-room HEPA filtration systems in the rest of the operating rooms.

The remaining operating rooms will stay closed until this work is complete.

Q: What is HEPA?

A: HEPA is an extremely effective filtration system that removes more than 99% of particles from the air passing through the filter.

Q: Why didn’t you already have it in the ORs?

A: Installing in-room HEPA filtration requires custom-building a system for each OR. We had previously planned to build in-room filtration systems room-by-room in order to minimize disruption to our patients and have already completed this work in three rooms. The room-by-room installation was previously scheduled to be completed by July 2020.

Q: Why can’t you make these changes faster?

A: It takes several months to design and fabricate these units. Then they have to be custom-fitted into our operating rooms.

Q: Is Seattle Children’s hiding information or lying to the press?

A: We took appropriate legal steps to protect the identity of our patients and the confidentiality of our quality improvement information. Protecting the privacy of our patients is not only the right thing to do, it’s the law. We continually strive to be transparent and accountable while also honoring the privacy of our patients and families.

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

A: At this time, we are unsure of the source of Aspergillus in the operating rooms and are actively investigating.

Q: In addition to installing HEPA filters what else is Children’s doing to make improvements?

A: 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.

Q: Can you assure me that my patient will not be exposed to Aspergillus in the future?

A: We are in the process of replacing our air handling unit and installing custom in-room HEPA in every OR.  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. We will not reopen our OR until these enhancements are complete.

Q: My patient had surgery there previously. Was my patient exposed to Aspergillus?

A: Since re-opening our ORs in July, we have been actively monitoring those patients we believe to be at a higher risk of infection based on the type of surgery they had.

Q: If a parent is concerned that their child may have been exposed to Aspergillus in the past. What should I do?

A: Since re-opening our ORs in July, we have been actively monitoring those patients we believe to be at a higher risk of infection based on the type of surgery they had.  Most Aspergillus surgical site infections develop within four months of surgery. If a parent is concerned about changes in their child’s health, please have them contact their clinic directly and speak with their child’s provider.

Q: Is this air quality issue related to construction?

A:  Aspergillus is only found in the top 6 inches of soil; the construction adjacent to our hospital buildings is many feet deep. We have been routinely testing the air in hospital areas nearest the construction site and have not found any Aspergillus spores. Also, to be extra safe during construction, we:

  • Sealed all doors and windows near the construction site.
  • Installed fans that blow dust away from the hospital.
  • Routinely test the air.