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Former employees reported mold concerns at Seattle Children's hospital

Records from a King County court case show building engineers at Seattle Children’s raised concerns with management about mold in 2001.

Documents filed in a King County lawsuit that was settled in 2008 show that Seattle Children’s hospital employees have long complained about poor maintenance of the ventilation system that serves the hospital’s operating rooms.

“The coils and drain pans actually have mold and fungus growing on them,” Maintenance Engineer Kenneth L. Johnson wrote to a supervisor in a 2001 email.

“We need to rectify this situation ASAP before someone gets sick or Infection Control gets complaints,” Johnson said.

Those emails were written a long time ago. However, they take on a renewed relevance after Seattle Children’s CEO Jeff Sperring announced Monday that its internal investigation linked the deaths of six children since 2001 to Aspergillus mold that circulated through the hospital’s ventilation system.

A total of 14 patients have developed an Aspergillus infection since 2001.

RELATED: Seattle Children’s told health officials in 2018 about prior mold infections

In 2005, the family of Shana Patnode filed suit against Seattle Children’s after she contracted an Aspergillus mold infection from brain surgery.

In addition to Johnson’s sworn declaration, in 2003 Maggie Brown, the former manager of Seattle Children’s building and engineering department, signed a sworn statement that the ventilation system was “in poor condition” with dead birds and other debris lining the intake screens.

Brown confirmed the statements she signed under oath in 2007 with KING 5 Wednesday at her home in Bothell.

Brown said she was fired by Seattle Children’s in 2003 after she complained that her superiors were taking money from the building maintenance budget and using it to fund new construction at the hospital.

Patnode’s case was settled by the hospital for an undisclosed sum in 2008. Her lawyer, John Laymen, said its disingenuous for the hospital to claim that it only recently tied prior Aspergillus deaths to its ventilation system when that was a major focus of the 2005 lawsuit.

Last week, Seattle Children’s closed most of its operating rooms until January so it can install a new rooftop air handler and in-room HEPA filters in every operating room and adjacent supply areas.

RELATED: 'We failed': Seattle Children's CEO announces 5 more deaths from mold

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