Updated July 8, 2019

We are very sorry for the impact the air quality issue in our operating rooms has had on our patients and families. Maintaining a safe environment for our patients is our highest priority and we would like to share with you some of the work that has been done during the last six weeks to address the air quality issues.

Background

On May 18, after routine air testing detected Aspergillus in several operating rooms and equipment storage rooms, we promptly closed the affected spaces and brought in outside industrial hygienists to investigate the source of the Aspergillus. We then closed the remainder of our operating rooms on May 24 when we determined that deficiencies in our air handler were likely contributing to the air quality issues. Closing all the operating rooms allowed us to physically access the air handling system in order to implement improvements and corrective actions.

We self-reported the air quality issues to the Department of Health on May 20. We welcomed the Department of Health for a three day visit the following week. During their visit the inspectors identified areas for improvement that we are addressing as part of our overall mitigation efforts. We are confident we will be able to successfully address their findings.

In May we contacted approximately 3,000 patients and families who had surgery at the main hospital in the four months prior to the detection of Aspergillus, informing them of the air quality issues and advising them to watch for signs of infection. We continue to closely monitor patients who may have been impacted.

Improvements We Have Implemented

Since closing our operating rooms six weeks ago, we have implemented multiple improvements recommended by outside experts. These include:

  • 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.

Following implementation of these improvements and corrective actions, we conducted extensive air testing to validate that our interventions have been and will continue to be effective.

Air tests results confirm our interventions have been effective and that it is safe to re-open our operating rooms. We are taking a thoughtful and systematic approach to resuming operations in our main operating rooms, which will begin tomorrow.

We are deeply sorry for the concerns this has caused our patients and families.

What Is the Best Way to Refer a Patient Who May Require a Surgical Procedure?

Please continue to call our ED Communications Center at 206-987-8899. We are reviewing potential surgical patients on a case-by-case basis by the appropriate surgical specialist and with our Surgeon-in-Chief to assess urgency and priority. After reviewing your patient’s information, we may determine their surgery may need to be performed at one of our community partners.

How Are You Rescheduling Surgical Procedures?

As we resume procedures in our main operating rooms, we are taking a thoughtful approach to rescheduling surgeries. We are reviewing surgeries on a daily basis to assess urgency and priority. Over the coming days and weeks, we will contact families to help them reschedule their procedures.

What If I Have An Urgent Concern?

If you have an urgent clinical concern, please call the Provider-to-Provider Consulting Line at 206-987-7777 and ask to speak to Infectious Disease.

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