Seattle Children's knew of mold issues last year, emails reveal

Seattle Children's Hospital knew about the Aspergillus mold causing patient infections for a year and a half, according to internal emails between hospital leaders and Seattle/King County (Wash.) Public Health officials cited by KIRO 7.

Six things to know:

1. KIRO 7 received heavily redacted internal emails from June 2018 after filing a public records request in July. A King County judge cleared some of the redactions Nov. 19.

2. In the emails, King County health officials asked the hospital about the number of children infected by the mold last year. The hospital told health officials that some mold-related patient infections dated back to 2001.

3. However, Jeff Sperring, MD, CEO of Seattle Children's Hospital, did not disclose this information to the public until Nov. 18. Since 2001, 14 patients have gotten sick from the mold, and six have died, according to Dr. Sperring. It is now suspected that an air-handling system serving the operating rooms is to blame for some of the earlier infections.

4. In 2001, building engineers expressed concerns about issues with this ventilation system, according to court documents and emails obtained by KING 5 News.

"The coils and drain pans actually have mold and fungus growing on them," Kenneth Johnson, a maintenance engineer, wrote in a 2001 email to his supervisor. "We need to rectify this situation ASAP before someone gets sick or infection control gets complaints."

5. Seattle Children's most recent mold issues have sickened one patient, and a second potential case is under investigation. The hospital told KIRO 7 it has postponed 255 surgeries since announcing the presence of Aspergillus in three operating rooms and two procedural areas Nov. 10.

6. The hospital has closed 10 operating rooms until January while special air filtration systems are installed, a procedure initially slated for completion in July.

"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," Dr. Sperring said in the statement made Nov. 18.

Editor's note: Becker's Hospital Review has reached out to Seattle Children's for comment and will update the article as more information becomes available.

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Seattle Children's Hospital knew about the Aspergillus mold causing patient infections for a year and a half, according to internal emails between hospital leaders and Seattle/King County (Wash.) Public Health officials cited by KIRO 7.

 

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