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Cooling system issues see some non-urgent procedures postponed at University Hospital

University Hospital on the campus of Western University in London, Ont, on May 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Mark Spowart

London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) has postponed some non-urgent procedures at University Hospital (UH) as a result of problems with the facility’s cooling system.

The organization announced Monday that one of the hospital’s three chillers had broken down, and that repairs were expected to take several days.

Carol Young-Ritchie, LHSC’s executive vice-president, chief clinical officer and chief nursing officer, said Tuesday that engineers were still waiting on a part to arrive, likely at the end of the week.

“We’re anticipating the repair will be done Friday morning,” she said.

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Young-Ritchie said the entire hospital is affected by the broken chiller, however “we do know that some areas have more cold air going into them, certainly our operating rooms.”

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“Generally, reports from staff at UH and leaders who are there say it’s a little bit muggy there right now. It’s probably a couple of degrees warmer than it usually is.”

The issues come as the region braces for several days of heat and humidity. Environment Canada issued a heat warning for the region Tuesday afternoon, saying humidex values of near 40 C were expected through to the end of the workweek.

With that in mind, to conserve remaining chiller capacity, the hospital has had to reduce some clinical work, namely non-urgent elective cases, in order to lower the number of people in the building. Urgent and emergent work is still being carried out.

“Some are operating room cases we’ve reduced and some of our ambulatory care work… people coming in to see physicians and some of our clinics,” Young-Ritchie said, later adding that the number of operating rooms online at UH had been lowered from 15 to six.

“Our emergency department is still open. We are still doing our essential services as an important regional hospital in the system.”

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It’s not the first time the hospital has run into cooling issues. The same chiller ran into problems last summer, according to Young-Ritchie.

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“I think what we need to keep in mind is the University Hospital building is almost 50 years old now. It is an older building and things happen, as it does in older buildings,” she said.

“Our facilities team and engineers are on that all over our building and doing a good job to try to maintain that building. But it is an ageing facility.”

LHSC says patients will hear from their care team if their appointment is being postponed.

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