County-USC Medical Center resumes elective surgeries after abrupt cancellation over mold

Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center discovered mold in an area where surgical equipment is sterilized.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Health officials announced late Friday that they had resumed elective surgeries at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, following a temporary halt to the operations that began earlier this week after the discovery of mold in a room used to sterilize surgical equipment.

The L.A. County Department of Health Services said in a statement that the hospital had “begun to ramp up elective surgeries” and was expected to be at full capacity soon.

Administrators did not immediately respond to a request for the number of surgeries performed Friday or for further details about when they expected to be back to normal.

The statement said officials had detected a “minor, localized water leak” and no mold was found anywhere else in the Boyle Heights facility.


“This sterilization room was contained and closed for abatement, and all patients and staff remained safe,” the statement said “The hospital is utilizing alternate sterilizer equipment capacity, located both on campus and in its sister facilities, to maintain services for its patients.”

Attending physicians and residents at the 600-bed facility learned about the cancellation Wednesday when the hospital’s chief medical officer, Dr. Brad Spellberg, sent an email saying the central sterile processing room “is suffering from severe water damage and mold contamination and must be closed immediately.” He warned in his email that elective surgeries would not resume for an estimated two weeks.

The county has not explained what type of mold was found or who discovered it.

Aspergillus mold spores, a very common form of the fungus, were discovered in the air filtration system of Seattle Children’s Hospital this year. That led to confirmed infections in six patients, one of whom died. Hospital administrators sent notifications to 3,000 patients warning them to be vigilant for signs of possible infection.

The medical center, one of the largest public hospitals in the country, is part of the L.A. County Department of Health Services system that serves as the safety net for millions of the county’s poorest and most vulnerable residents.