Quick thinking and a fast reaction to a problem has kept a malfunctioning fan from causing big problems.

On January 30, operating room (OR) staff at Royal University Hospital noticed something wrong with the airflow system in their part of the hospital.

Operating room, maintenance, and housekeeping staff are being praised for their quick action in noticing an issue with a fan.

Operating room, maintenance, and housekeeping staff are being praised for their quick action in noticing an issue with a fan.

A malfunction with an exhaust fan servicing the 11 operating theatres of Royal University Hospital led to a backup fan starting up, explained Marcel Nobert, Director of Facilities Management. But the backup fan was running in reverse, so instead of removing air from the operating rooms, it was blowing it in.

Operating room staff noticed that doors were not closing properly due to the increased air pressure in the rooms. They immediately called maintenance, who shut down the malfunctioning fan, and rectified the situation within an hour.

“As part of the Electrical Switchgear renewal project, fans providing airflow to the hospital, including those for the ORs, were wired into the new electrical equipment.  There appears to have been a gap in the commissioning of one backup exhaust fan which led to it running in reverse when started,” Nobert noted.

In order to prevent similar situations occurring in the future, an additional procedure has been instituted which will make it physically impossible to start this type of equipment without having positive verification that all testing is complete.

While the risk to patients was very low, Jackie Mann, vice president of Integrated Health Services, immediately visited patients who had received surgery in the affected operating room and explained what happened.

OR staff members are being praised for their attentiveness, which led to the quick identification of the problem and prevented the situation from harming patients.

Kudos were also give to the quick response of maintenance staff, who resolved the situation in less than an hour, and the housekeeping staff who were instrumental in helping OR staff clean all the theatres quickly and thoroughly as a precaution.