Bronson hopes to reopen surgery center this week

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The small fire was quickly snuffed at Bronson Methodist Hospital on Wednesday, but its impact continues.

The hospital’s surgical center remains closed, forcing up to 100 patients a day to either reschedule their surgeries or have them performed at different hospitals.

The hospital’s emergency room also is turning away ambulances with the most critical patients, diverting them elsewhere.

Hospital officials said the fire late Wednesday caused millions of dollars in damages — mostly to surgical equipment and supplies. It started in a piece of equipment, but it’s not clear how.

They said they hope to reopen after the state on Monday gave them approval.

Annette Shelley of Portage was ready to take her mom, Myrna Shelley, to surgery at Bronson Thursday morning when they got the call that a fire the night before had shut down the surgical center.

“You get all psyched up and you’re anticipating the pain and what all everything’s going to entail, then it just doesn’t happen,” Shelley said.

Within hours, they learned the surgery to remove pelvic mesh was moved to Bronson’s cross-town competition, Ascension Borgess Hospital, the next day.

“There’s nothing you can do about a fire. I think it was handled really well,” Shelley said.

The small fire started at 11 p.m. Wednesday in the sterilization and reprocessing room on the second floor, where surgical supplies and equipment are sterilized and stored.

The sprinkler system quickly extinguished it, but it left a huge mess in an area where even the slightest mess can threaten patients’ lives.

It also destroyed two equipment sterilizers, which have been since replaced, hospital officials said.

“The smoke was so thick and black that that went into our packaging and that’s why we had to dispose of everything (all the surgical equipment and supplies),” Director of Nursing Anne Wendling said.

The hospital has been closed to surgeries — 70 to 100 a day — from knee replacements to brain surgery.

“This event has made us unable to safely perform surgeries and for us, patient quality and safety is paramount,” Bronson Chief Operating Officer Denise Neely said.

Bronson has either rescheduled the surgeries or moved them to another hospital, including Borgess.

“Borgess has been great about helping support us through this,” Neely said.

On Monday, as they prepared to reopen, hospital staff were busy trying to replace and sterilize the surgical supplies rendered useless by the fire.

“Accolades to the teams that responded,” Neely said. “The fact that we have only been down for about a week and are this close to being able to open again is unbelievable.”

She said the hospital hopes to open the surgical center by Friday.

Bronson said it has opened two operating rooms for now just for patients who would be put at greater risk by moving them.

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