SEATTLE (KOMO/CNN) - It’s one of the top hospitals for children in the country, but now Seattle Children’s Hospital admits it failed to protect some of its most vulnerable patients.
CEO Jeff Sperring held a press conference Monday accepting blame for not doing more to recognize and prevent deadly outbreaks linked to ongoing mold problems.
"I’m sorry to every mom, dad or caregiver who has placed their confidence in us," Sperring said.
He admitted the repeated problems of aspergillus fungus at their main campus must be fixed.
"We have had too many of these infections and so that's why my sole focus, what we are working on, is to make sure that we do everything we can to eliminate exposure," Sperring stressed.
Since last December, seven patients came down with aspergillus surgical site infections at the main campus. One died.
But between 2001 and 2014, seven more developed infections and five did not survive.
The fungus is especially problematic for those who have weakened immune systems.
Sperring is blaming the operating rooms’ air filtration systems.
“But I need to start by saying I’m sorry,” Sperring said. “First and foremost, I want to apologize to our patients and our families who have been directly impacted by these infections. This is simply devastating for them and for us. You are extraordinary kids, courageous families. We let you down and I am sorry.”
Sperring told reporters the hospital hoped last spring’s operating rooms shutdown and remediation would have eliminated the fungus.
Now the hospital says it will replace its air handler, thought to be the source of the fungus, and install HEPA air filters in the operating and other rooms.
For the time being, that means patients will have to reschedule their procedures or have them done at other facilities.
Sperring promised to review the factors that allowed the fungus to make so many patients sick for so long. And he apologized for not recognizing the earlier infections with those who became sick recently.
"At the time, we believe that these were isolated incidents. We now believe these infections were likely caused by the air handling system that served our operating rooms,” Sperring explained. “Looking back, we should have made the connection sooner. Simply put – we failed."
The hospital says it’s been working with outside experts to plan how to redo the air filtration systems. The new air filtration systems should arrive next week and won’t be ready to go online until after the new year.