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Seattle Children’s CEO admits: “We failed” in response to 6 deaths and illnesses caused by mold

Dr. Jeff Sperring, the chief executive officer of Seattle Children’s, admitted that 14 patients have become ill as a result of exposure to Aspergillus mold. Six of those patients died. Dr. Sperring blamed the hospital for failing to recognize a connection between the mold infections in the patients and the air-handling units that served its operating rooms.

Dr. Sperring said that initially, the hospital thought that earlier infections were isolated events; however, the recent mold infection cases prompted the hospital to reexamine. “Looking back, we should have made the connection sooner,” Dr. Sperring said at a news conference. “Simply put, we failed.”

Despite the recent discovery that the air-handling units and the mold infections, Eugene and Clarissa Patnode made the connection more than a 12 years ago, when their 12-year-old daughter’s Aspergillus infection, which she developed while she was being treated at Seattle Children’s, left her permanently disabled.

“This makes me sick to my stomach,” John Layman, an attorney who represents the Patnodes, said when he was contacted by a local newspaper. “Our whole case was about the problems with the HVAC and it seems to have never been addressed.” The Patnodes did not respond to a message that the newspaper left for them.

At the time, Seattle Children’s aggressively denied the allegations that the Patnodes made against them. In fact, the hospital fought the family in court for almost three years. A hospital spokeswoman did not respond to questions regarding the lawsuit, which was settled in 2008 for an undisclosed amount. The spokeswoman also did not respond to questions after the news conference.

Seattle Children’s is one of the most celebrated hospitals. Doctors who practice at the hospital are sought after by patients across the nation. Since the announcement of the cause of the mold infections that sickened 14 children and killed six of those children – one of them an infant – the hospital has been scorned by the public. Seattle Children’s has had a hard time eradicated the strain of mold from its air-handler systems, which was linked to a humidifier that had not been turned on for more than a decade. It is believed that mold developed in the humidifier while it sat dormant, and when it was turned on, the mold spores traveled through the HVAC system and into the hospital’s operating rooms, where it infected the 14 children.

The experience of the Patnode family indicates that the problems with mold infections at Seattle Children’s aren’t new, and that rather, they extend back more than a decade; much further than the hospital had acknowledged previously.

According to the CDC, while Aspergillus – the mold that caused the infections – is common, it can be dangerous to those who have weakened immune systems; particularly organ- or stem-cell transplant patients, like those patients at Seattle Children’s.

Mold Inspection & Testing Seattle has performed countless mold assessments throughout the city. We urge Seattle Children’s to make regular mold testing a priority to prevent future infections and potential deaths. To speak with an MI&T representative, call 206.607.6895.