Surgical Postponement - Frequently Asked Questions

April 28, 2017

Q. Why are surgeries at WRMC being postponed?

As you may have heard, we recently discovered a mechanical issue in our facility that required immediate attention. This is a very complex issue involving the steam boiler system that serves many areas of our hospital. The issue arose from an imbalance in the water treatment provided to the boiler system. We were able to correct the imbalance by replacing a de-alkalizer and adjusting the chemical levels and pressure in the treated water that serves the boilers. We are now flushing the steam boiler system to ensure these adjustments are received throughout the entire steam system.

Q. How did the system break?

We believe there were a number of factors that led to this issue, including the de-alkalizer that had to be replaced, the chemical imbalance and low water pressure serving the system. We are extremely grateful for the diligence of our team and their quick action to ensure the ongoing safety of our patients.

Q. Has this issue posed a risk to any patients, or former patients?

We have no reason to believe any patient has been harmed by this issue. Our staff identified the issue prior to any procedures taking place and brought it to our attention. We decided to halt certain surgical procedures while we fully resolve the issue.

Q. What is being done to fix the issue?

We have a team of specialists, engineers and contractors who have great expertise in this area and are working diligently to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. To date, we have ordered and replaced the de-alkalizer in our steam boiler system, increased water pressure to the system, recalibrated the chemicals, and are now repeatedly flushing and testing the system to ensure that it is functioning properly so surgical procedures can resume.

Q. Why is the hospital able to do some procedures but not others?

Certain procedures, like endoscopy and c-section, are not supported by the equipment that is being repaired. Only procedures that are supported by the equipment under repair have been postponed.

Q. When will surgeries resume?

We do not have an exact timeframe, but we hope to resume surgeries very soon. Please know that our priority is to make sure this issue is fully resolved so we can ensure the ongoing safety of our patients. As soon as we have a more specific timeframe, we will let you know.

Q. What is being done for patients who need emergency surgery?

Any individual who is brought to our hospital and in immediate need of surgery is currently being given a medical screening exam, stabilized and transported to another facility that is equipped to provide the needed care.

Q. Is there an infection outbreak at the hospital?

No. There is no infection outbreak at WRMC. This is a mechanical issue that our team identified and decided to halt certain surgical procedures. We are working diligently to resolve it.

Q. What are we doing to communicate with patients and the community?

Patients directly affected have been notified by their surgeon’s office. We have met with local surgeons and provided an in-depth review of the situation and our plans to remedy the issue. We have provided as many updates as possible to local clinics so they are aware of the current status.

In addition, a statement has been placed on the hospital website and submitted to the Watertown Daily Times to ensure that our community is aware of the situation and understands that we are doing our best to resolve the issue.

Going forward, we will continue to communicate regularly with physicians and their clinics, as well as front line staff who may receive questions. We will be communicating with patients as quickly as possible if there are any changes to their scheduled procedures, and we will be sharing updates via our website and/or social media as they happen.

Q. How can we be sure that once surgeries resume, this doesn’t happen again?

The combination of events that led to this happening is extremely rare and unlikely to happen again. We are making necessary changes, such as those outlined above, that will further reduce the likelihood of a recurrence of these events.

Q. Why can’t we just buy new equipment and put install it in a few days?

The equipment required needs to be manufactured to the specification of our hospital.  They aren’t something that can be bought off the shelf.