State questioned Seattle Children's over lack of air filter in OR

The Washington Department of Health interviewed leadership at Seattle Children's in November 2019 to determine why cardiac surgeries were still being conducted in operating rooms without advanced air filtration systems, according to a state report cited by NBC affiliate King 5. 

The state was prompted to investigate after an infant underwent cardiac surgery in an OR without a high-efficiency particulate air filter in early October. The baby tested positive for an Aspergillus mold infection Nov. 7.

In response to the state, Seattle Children's report said the CMO and chief surgeon decided in September 2019 to open the ORs to cardiac cases after consultation with infection prevention and heart care teams. The hospital added that the OR in question had consistently tested negative for mold and that a closure would create "concerns of workflow issues with caseloads."

Seattle Children's was not cited for any violations during a Nov. 12 state inspection.

"There was no legal requirement for having a HEPA filter in the operating room," Lisa Stromme,  a Washington Department of Health spokesperson, told King 5. "In this case, it was not within the scope of the investigator's role to make a judgment call about doing surgery in that location."

The system that circulates air through the hospital's ORs is now thought to be the cause of 14 mold infections and six deaths dating back to 2001, Jeff Sperring, MD, Seattle Children's CEO, announced Nov. 18. The hospital is scheduled to install custom in-room HEPA filters in 10 ORs and two equipment storage rooms by the end of January.  

Seattle Children's did not immediately respond to King 5's request for comment.

More articles on clinical leadership and infection control:
Fewer US adults believe vaccines are important, survey finds
Northwell pilots black boxes in ORs
California hospital deploys overflow tent after flu cases double

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