Seattle Children's cited for safety violations after mold leaves 1 patient dead

CMS found patient safety violations at Seattle Children's hospital related to mold detected in its operating rooms in May, local TV station KING-TV reported.

The hospital closed its 14 main operating rooms after tests revealed traces of Aspergillus mold in several operating rooms and equipment storage rooms May 18. Over the past two years, the mold led to one patient's death and five other infections, according to KING-TV­­, which cited a statement from Seattle Children's.

Aspergillus is a common mold that most people breathe in every day without adverse effects. In rare cases, people with weakened immune systems or lung diseases could develop health issues from the mold spores, according to the CDC. The patients who developed Aspergillus infections after exposure to the mold at Seattle Children's were at higher risk of infection due to medical procedures they had, the hospital told KING-TV.

After the mold was detected at Seattle Children's in May, hospital officials reported the issue to the Washington State Department of Health. The department performed a three-day on-site survey of the hospital in late May and found more than two dozen violations of federal regulations and hospital policy, including failure to properly maintain air filtering systems that fed to operating rooms, according to KING-TV.

CMS informed the hospital June 20 that its Medicare contract could be terminated if the deficiencies are not corrected. Most hospitals make corrections before they lose Medicare funding, and Seattle Children's has made several changes to address the deficiencies. The hospital has switched to an updated and sanitized air handler, implemented a new cleaning process that uses ultraviolet light to disinfect surfaces, installed a new humidification system, and sealed potential sources of air leaks in operating rooms, according to The Seattle Times.

Although CMS hasn't approved Seattle Children's plan of correction, the hospital reopened its main operating rooms July 4. At a news conference July 3, Seattle Children's CMO Mark Del Beccaro, MD, said daily air-testing results showed the operating rooms were safe, according to The Washington Post.

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