A leak from a sewage pipe flooded an area of St. Charles Bend on Tuesday, forcing the hospital to cancel surgeries and leaving patients unable to shower or flush toilets for several hours.
The leak was discovered around 9:15 a.m. in the central processing department, where surgical instruments are cleaned and sterilized in a lower level of the main patient tower. Hospital officials halted water usage in the building, and had patients use commodes until they could identify the cause of leak.
Within a couple of hours, facilities staff cleared a blockage in a 6-inch-wide pipe, and temporarily fixed the leak. The hospital ordered the parts needed for a permanent fix, which are due to arrive Thursday afternoon. The water restrictions were then lifted.
The flooding also limited the hospital’s capacity to sterilize instruments for surgery, called reprocessing.
While some reprocessing can be done in the hospital’s operating rooms, other instruments were sent to St. Charles Redmond or to surgery centers in Bend for cleaning and sterilization.
The hospital canceled some elective surgeries, but did not divert trauma cases or other urgent procedures.
Debbie Robinson, chief nursing officer at St. Charles Bend, said the hospital is consulting with surgeons to determine which surgeries scheduled for Wednesday could be rescheduled with no risk to the patient.
“We’ll be able to function but just not at full capacity,” she said.
Hospital officials plan to notify patients whose surgeries are postponed, and asked that patients not call the hospital to inquire about the status of their procedures.
Robinson said though the pipe should be fixed in a matter of days, it will take longer to bring their reprocessing back up to normal capacity.
“We need to (do) a full clean-up in the department as soon as the pipe is fixed, so we will not be back to full operations immediately,” Robinson said. “We have a plan to get the right resources in to make sure we’re ready to go.”
The incident marks the second time the reprocessing unit has shut down in the past two years. In August 2016, a fire in a dryer used to reprocess surgical tools led to the cancellation of less critical surgeries for several days. Hospital staff used the same contingency plans to reschedule surgeries and reprocess equipment after the sewage leak. According to St. Charles officials, the two events affecting the same department were simply a coincidence, one involving a plumbing issue and the other a freestanding piece of equipment.
“Just dumb luck,” hospital spokeswoman Lisa Goodman said.
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