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St. Boniface ORs still out of commission

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St. Boniface General Hospital’s 14 operating rooms continue to be shut down two weeks after heating and ventilation problems forced their closure Jan. 22.

Katherine Fox, a spokeswoman for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, said today the hospital is continuing to investigate problems with its air-handling systems.

"Repairs and testing continue, as will simulations to ensure things are working properly. We will only open the operating rooms once we are confident that they provide the safest environment possible for patients," Fox said in an email.

In the meantime, she said, hospitals across the city continue to perform urgent and emergency surgeries which would have been done at St. B. They are also tackling some of the elective or planned surgeries that had been scheduled at the province’s second largest hospital.

The hospital’s ORs have been out of commission since the early morning of Jan. 22. Heating and ventilation systems failed and cold air got inside, causing heating coils to freeze and crack. When the heat was turned back on, water from the burst coils flooded a couple of operating rooms, although most damage was confined to hallways and ancillary rooms around the ORs.

The hospital quickly repaired the coils and replaced damaged ceiling tiles and drywall. But it has been having a lot more difficulty getting the ventilation system in the OR areas to operate properly.

WRHA officials had originally feared it would take months to get the operating rooms back in service. But water damage turned out to be less serious than first thought and the heating coils proved to be repairable.

Officials then said they hoped — under a best-case scenario — to see at least some of the ORs back in service within a week or two of the shutdown.

Fox said today the WRHA now expects to provide an update on the situation "later in the week."

Meanwhile, as of this past Friday, 266 elective or scheduled surgeries at St. Boniface had been postponed. Surgeries for 20 patients had been delayed at other hospital sites due to bumping by the most serious cases from St. Boniface. And a small number of cases scheduled for procedures outside the operating room had also been delayed.

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