TIME FOR ACTION: West Moreton Hospital and Health Service executive director medical services Pieter Pike and infectious diseases expert Rashmi Dixit discuss a mould outbreak in the ICU.
TIME FOR ACTION: West Moreton Hospital and Health Service executive director medical services Pieter Pike and infectious diseases expert Rashmi Dixit discuss a mould outbreak in the ICU. David Nielsen

Hazardous mould found in hospital ICU

INTENSIVE care patients will be relocated from Ipswich Hospital following confirmation that a mould outbreak has grown to a potentially hazardous level.

First discovered in April 2015, the household mould initially appeared in the staff offices connected to the intensive care unit.

It was cleaned with solution as normal, but West Moreton Hospital and Health Service CEO Kerrie Freeman said concerns grew as the mould kept coming back.

West Moreton Hospital and Health Service Ipswich Hospital Chief Executive Kerrie Freeman discuss a mould outbreak in the ICU.
West Moreton Hospital and Health Service Ipswich Hospital Chief Executive Kerrie Freeman discuss a mould outbreak in the ICU. David Nielsen

"It kept growing back more quickly," Ms Freeman said.

"When mould keeps coming back, there's a question that needs to be asked."

Extensive testing showed the aspergillus outbreak had reached a level that could put vulnerable patients at risk.

The ICU air-conditioning system has been identified as the main culprit and work is set to be carried out once the last patient is relocated.

The hospital's infectious diseases expert, Rashmi Dixit, said that while aspergillus was a fungus that was common in every day situations, high levels could leave people with weakened immune systems in danger.

"We all constantly inhale aspergillus spores and our immune systems clean it out," Ms Dixit said.

"In the ICU it was found in numbers that were quite high and concentrated."

Mould can cause lung infections, sinus infections and allergic reactions in vulnerable people, although most patients who end up in the ICU would not be included in this category, according to the hospital's executive director of medical services, Pieter Pike.

"While we don't have any of those patients now, we would not want to risk anyone coming into that sort of environment," Mr Pike said.

Of the two patients still in the ICU, one will be transferred to the PA Hospital, with the other to be relocated to another ICU in the region yet to be determined.

The hospital is working with the Queensland Ambulance Service to arrange the safe transport of the patients.

A temporary ICU will be set up in the operating theatre at Ipswich Hospital for any urgent cases.

In addition to a thorough clean, the process will also involve removing the source of the mould.

Ms Freeman said parts of the ceiling and carpet would be removed in addition to work that would be carried out on the ventilation system. The work is expected to take no longer than two weeks.


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