Seattle Children’s Hospital faces a class-action lawsuit for allegedly knowing about a mold infestation in its facilities and doing nothing about it.
According to the lawsuit, the hospital knew for years that a mold problem could be related to its air-handling system, but tried to cover it up. This resulted in the deaths of several children.
The hospital shut down its operating rooms twice this year after air tests detected mold in the air. One patient died and six patients became very ill during that outbreak. Between 2001 and 2014, seven patients developed the same infection, and five of them died.
“At the time, we believed most of these were isolated infections,” hospital CEO Dr. Jeff Sperring said. “However, we now believe that these infections were likely caused by the air handling systems that serve our operating rooms.”
“Looking back, we should have recognized these connections sooner.”
The suit, claims, however, that the hospital should have known about the risks of their air-handling system as early as 2000.
The suit adds that a professional engineering consultant alerted the hospital to concerns about the air-handling system. This included problems that were the result of, the hospital’s failure to test equipment, plugged screens, water leaks, and both living and dead birds in fan shafts.
In 2005, a family filed a lawsuit against Seattle Children’s Hospital over an Aspergillus infectio. The hospital privately settled this lawsuit in 2008.
The current lawsuit accuses the hospital of keeping a deadly secret to in order to falsely reassure staff and the public of that their facility was safe from harmful and potentially deadly toxic mold.
The lawsuit highlights another lawsuit that was filed last month against the hospital by parents of a teen boy who claim that the mold caused an infection that disabled their son.
This lawsuit, which was only recently reported publicly, alleges that the teen developed meningitis from the mold that has been frequently found in operating rooms.
Aspergillus is a common mold found indoors and outdoors that people breathe daily without getting ill. However, people with a lung disease or weakened immune system are at risk of developing aspergillosis, which can manifest as an allergic reaction or as infections in the lungs and other organs.
“We are deeply sorry for the impact the air quality issue in our operating rooms has had on our patients and families,” said Kathryn Mueller, a Seattle Children’s spokeswoman. “While we will not share details about our patients or comment on specific cases out of respect for privacy, we remain fully committed to working with this family through the legal process and supporting them during what we know is a very difficult time.”