The University of Vermont Medical Center is closing operating rooms at its Fanny Allen Colchester campus for the month of December, and shifting surgeries to its main hospital campus in Burlington, while hospital staff work with state officials and an outside consultant to investigate air quality concerns in the area of the operating rooms. Patients who have surgeries planned this month will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

Patients whose surgeries need to be relocated or rescheduled will receive a phone call from their provider’s office to discuss their options. Over the next several days, teams from across the hospital will be reviewing operating room schedules, patient needs and available staff to determine when and where patients can be accommodated. Any patients with questions or concerns about a scheduled surgery should contact their surgeon’s office for assistance.

We understand that rescheduling a surgery is inconvenient, and we apologize in advance to any patients who may have procedures moved,” said interim president Steve Leffler, MD. “But nothing is more important than the safety and comfort of our patients and staff. For that reason, we believe closing these operating rooms for the month to further investigate is the right thing to do. It’s important for us to take the time we need to get this right.”

On Wednesday, November 27, employees complained of an exhaust-like smell and symptoms including headache and nausea. Seven employees were medically evaluated at Urgent Care. Hospital facilities and health and safety teams, as well as an environmental consultant, investigated, and all testing indicated that the air quality in the building was safe throughout the afternoon. A similar incident occurred in October. While air quality was shown to be safe after both incidents, and in the interim, a cause of the smells – which other employees had described alternately as ‘hamburger,’ ‘bacon,’ or ‘two-stroke fuel’ – had yet to be determined.

The operating rooms are the only impacted area of the Fanny Allen campus. The rest of the building, including the rehabilitation center and other areas, has been repeatedly tested and continues to operate as usual. The UVM Medical Center has received input from an external environmental consulting firm, as well as VOSHA.

“Although testing has indicated that the air quality throughout the building remains safe, we understand that the situation has been upsetting for employees who experienced symptoms related to this smell, and we need to get to the bottom of it,” Dr. Leffler added.

About the University of Vermont Medical Center
The University of Vermont Medical Center  is a 447-bed tertiary care regional referral center providing advanced care to approximately 1 million residents in Vermont and northern New York. Together with our partners at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, we are Vermont’s academic medical center. The University of Vermont Medical Center also serves as a community hospital for approximately 150,000 residents in Chittenden and Grand Isle counties. 

The University of Vermont Medical Center is a member of The University of Vermont Health Network, an integrated system established to deliver high quality academic medicine to every community we serve.

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