VA Hospital Flooding Delays Surgeries

Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 10, 2018

White River Junction — Sixty surgeries have been postponed as a result of flooding late last month that forced the closing of the White River Junction VA Medical Center’s four operating rooms.

The flooding, which was caused by a malfunctioning sprinkler on the top floor in the main hospital building, took place on Friday, June 29, after all the day’s surgeries were complete, the medical center’s spokeswoman Katherine Tang said on Tuesday.

Since then, workers have been making repairs to the area where surgeons sanitize themselves before entering an operating room, Tang said. She said the hospital expects to reopen three rooms, which were otherwise not seriously affected by the flooding, on Monday.

The “majority of our repairs have been concentrated on that so that we could open three of the four” rooms, Tang said.

So far, it is unclear when the fourth room, which was damaged in the flooding, will reopen, she said.

VA surgeons have been calling veterans who had procedures scheduled while the operating rooms are closed to discuss which next steps make the most sense for each veteran, Tang said.

The “surgeon doesn’t like to make that decision,” Tang said.

Some procedures have been rescheduled, while other veterans have gotten referrals to other providers, she said. Some procedures, which simply involve injections, have been moved to other rooms elsewhere at the VA.

Most of the surgery performed at the VA Medical Center is outpatient, though some do involve inpatient stays, Tang said.

If veterans have needed emergency surgeries since these operating rooms have been closed, they have been referred to community providers, Tang said.

It’s still unclear what caused the sprinkler to go off in June, Tang said. But workers have replaced the sprinkler head and checked all the others, she said.

She credited the quick response time of the Hartford Fire Department and medical center staff for containing the effects of the flooding. They stopped the water flow within 45 minutes and prevented damage from spreading to other floors, she said.

Since all surgeries were done for the day at the time of the flooding, no veterans were caught in it, she said.

“If this were to happen, (we’re) happy it happened when it did,” she said.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.