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More mold detected at Seattle Children's Hospital

Seattle Children's is once again closing operating rooms and rescheduling surgeries. The hospital is taking precautions after air tests revealed new concerns.

SEATTLE — On Tuesday, Seattle Children's confirmed in a statement that additional mold was detected at the hospital. The hospital said they reported it to the Washington State Department of Health on May 12.

As first reported by the Seattle Times, routine air tests detected low levels of fungal spores in several operating rooms and an equipment storage room at Seattle Children's main campus where mold has been an ongoing problem.

Since 2001, there have been at least 14 young patients infected by Aspergillus mold. Seven have died.

Kristen Maki, a Washington State Department of Health spokesperson, released a statement about the mold recently detected at Seattle Children's.

"Air sampling did reveal low levels of Aspergillus, and no infections have been reported in patients at this time. It is our understanding from the self-report that the Aspergillus detected in sampling is a different type than the species associated with previous cases of Aspergillus surgical site infections. SCH is working with the impacted families to reschedule affected surgeries. DOH is currently reviewing this report and will determine if an investigation is warranted. Investigations are required to be unannounced so we will not be able to confirm any additional details at this time," Maki wrote.

The new mold findings are particularly concerning for Sim Osborn

"I mean, how does this happen again and again and now again?" Osborn asked.  

Osborn is the attorney representing Haley Seymour's family in a lawsuit against the hospital. Osborn says Seymour's baby contracted a mold infection months after Seattle Children's had closed operating rooms to make changes because of the presence of Aspergillus. Her son, who was born with an underdeveloped heart, required surgery on Oct. 1. He was sent home, but became sick and was brought back.

"When they opened him up at Children's, his entire heart was covered in black Aspergillus mold," said Osborn. 

Osborn says the baby's been in the hospital ever since. He describes him as a fighter, and the family is grateful for the doctors and nurses who have been by his side. 

Seattle Children's has said it won't comment on pending litigation.

As for the mold just detected, a Seattle Children's spokesperson released this statement:  

In 2019, we temporarily closed 10 ORs in order to install a new rooftop air handling unit, as well as in-room HEPA filtration systems in those ORs. HEPA is an extremely effective filtration system that removes more than 99.97% of particles from the air passing through the filter. Since re-opening our ORs in February 2020, we have conducted continuous air pressure monitoring and daily air testing, and validated that the new air handling unit and HEPA filtration systems are functioning as expected.

Providing safe, quality care is our top priority at Seattle Children’s. As we stated before reopening our ORs, we are committed to taking swift and necessary action – including closing ORs – in the event of unexpected test results. In May, routine air tests detected low levels of fungal spores in several ORs and an equipment storage room. Daily testing has not detected any Aspergillus fumigatus spores, which is the species of Aspergillus associated with our previously confirmed 14 Aspergillus surgical site infections. Air testing did detect very low levels of Aspergillus versicolor spores, which is generally not associated with causing surgical site infections. Nevertheless, the air test results prompted us to evaluate the environment and OR air pressures, which revealed unexpected air pressure findings.

Based on these results, we decided to proceed with a more expansive evaluation of the impacted spaces in collaboration with external engineering experts. We anticipate several ORs will be closed for several weeks while the evaluation is underway.

More on the mold infections at Seattle Children's: