University Hospitals increases security after accident may have compromised thousands of eggs, embryos

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Hundreds of patients at University Hospitals Fertility Center are dealing with some devastating news. The eggs and embryos the had frozen at the clinic may no longer be viable.

The news came to patients in the form of a letter on Thursday. In it, hospital officials explain that a freezer failure caused about 2,000 eggs and embryos to potentially become compromised. They do not know yet if it was a mechanical malfunction or human error.

"We are so very sorry this happened, and we want to do all that we can to support our families and patients through this very difficult time," said Patti DePompei, president of University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, in a video posted on UH's Facebook page.

Right now, hospital officials do not know how many of the eggs and embryos are viable, only that a number have been impacted.

The incident happened between Saturday night and Sunday morning, after staff had left for the evening. The tanks are attached with alarms, which will go off if the temperature drops below a certain level. Because no one was there to hear the alarms, however, the situation went uncorrected until Sunday morning.

After the incident, the eggs and embryos were moved to new liquid nitrogen tanks, and they are set at the correct temperature.

UH officials say they are being watched around the clock, and the hospital has also stepped up security, because of the emotional nature of the situation.

In order to determine if the embryos and eggs have been impacted, they'll have to unfreeze them. That's another dilemma for patients, because once that's done, they cannot be refrozen.

DePompei said in her statement on Facebook that the hospital will go through a "deep investigation," including bringing in experts, "to ensure that this does not happen again."

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