UVM Medical Center says Fanny Allen operating rooms to reopen this month

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The UVM Medical Center is planning a “phased re-opening'” of operating rooms at the Fanny Allen campus beginning January 27.

The surgical suites were closed in December after employees complained of an exhaust-like smell that caused headaches and nausea. Seven Fanny Allen employees were medically evaluated at urgent care on Nov. 27. Similar complaints about the odors — described as everything from hamburgers to bacon to “two-stroke fuel” — were reported in October.

The incidents forced surgeries scheduled for Fanny Allen’s campus in Colchester to be shifted to UVMMC’s main facility in Burlington. Surgeries were also conducted at network hospitals in Berlin and Middlebury.

Hospital officials said Wednesday that testing and monitoring of the air quality did not determine the cause of the odors, but said that two consultants, the state of Vermont and an outside occupational health expert say the areas are safe.

“Based on everything we’ve learned and everything we’ve done, we feel very confident that the Fanny Allen operating rooms are safe,” said Stephen Leffler, president and chief operating officer of the UVM Medical Center. “The time is right to begin working toward reopening them.”

Hospital officials say the operating rooms will be upgraded with air monitoring systems, carbon monoxide monitors, and air sampling canisters. A detailed event response plan has been developed by an advisory group of staff and providers.

Leffler acknowledged that the situation has been difficult for those who were effected by the two incidents, and frustrating for patients whose appointments were moved. “I’m so grateful for the hard work, flexibility and patience of all our teams,” he said. 

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