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What Caused Mold to Grow in Sterilization Sink?

Mold discovery puts surgeries on hold at California hospital.

Published: June 13, 2017

CONTAMINATED SINK Officials are trying to determine what caused mold to grow in a sterilization sink.

The ORs at a California hospital remain closed after mold was found growing in a sterilization sink a couple weeks ago.

"We currently have no way to sterilize equipment," says John Peleuses, the interim CEO at Sonoma West Medical Center in Sebastopol. Mr. Peleuses said he could not estimate when the mold would be eradicated "until we open the wall up."

California Department of Public Health officials confirmed the outbreak of mold in a sterilization sink at Sonoma West, forcing the hospital's surgical unit to close on June 2. State health inspectors will remain at the hospital until the mold issue has been resolved.

What could have caused the mold? We asked Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC, president of Infection Control Consulting Services in Delray Beach, Fla., to weigh in.

While she cautions that it's hard to speculate because it's not clear where in the sink the mold was found, Ms. Segal suspects that the origin of the mold is hidden, possibly behind the walls. "Depending on what type of material the walls are constructed of, one could possibly find mold that makes its way into the sink," she says.

Mold also could have been growing as a result of protein material being "trapped" in the drainpipe, says Ms. Segal — "a similar concept to biofilm."

"This situation should alert facilities to be diligent about cleaning processes in the decontamination room, including the sink at the end of the day," says Ms. Segal. "It may be an opportunity to consider including drying the sink and surrounding area that is wet before shutting the lights and leaving at the end of the day."

Ms. Segal also suggests checking the room temperature in the decontamination room "as humidity can encourage mold growth, too."

An unconfirmed report states the hospital performed surgeries on May 31 — the day after 2 regulatory agencies recommended against using sterilization equipment near the contaminated sink.

Attempts to reach officials from Sonoma West Medical Center, Palm Drive Health Care District and the California Department of Public Health for comment were unsuccessful.

Bill Donahue


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