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Apology letter sent to UH patients affected by freezer incident contains few details

March 23, 2018 GMT

Apology letter sent to UH patients affected by freezer incident contains few details

CLEVELAND, Ohio – University Hospitals sent an apology letter to patients affected by the recent incident at its fertility clinic, but the letter offered little new information on what happened.In the letter (see full text of the letter below), UH said it is still investigating why there was a temperature fluctuation in one of its two storage tanks that caused damage to as many as 2,000 eggs and embryos inside, affecting 700 patients. The hospital system has not publicly commented since its initial statement announcing the incident.“We understand there are questions about why this is taking so long,” Dr. Daniel Simon, president of UH Cleveland Medical Center, wrote in the letter. “We are still completing the root cause analysis. The units for these types of storage are complex, and it is taking time to examine all aspects of the situation.“Simon said UH is reviewing the storage tank and its temperature monitoring system, pressure monitoring system and computer software; the alarm systems; physical security and cybersecurity; liquid nitrogen issue; and preventive maintenance.UH has purchased new storage tanks with new alarms from a different vendor, Simon said, but didn’t reveal which manufacturer made the one that had the significant temperature fluctuation March 3-4.“Since there is restricted key card access, and we record entry to these areas, thus far we have ruled out any inappropriate physical access,” Simon wrote. “We believe a hack into the computer portions of the equipment is not likely, but we have not ruled it out completely given a similar occurrence at a fertility center in San Francisco on the same day.“On the same day UH discovered the temperature fluctuation, the Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco also found one of its storage tanks leaked liquid nitrogen, and eggs and embryos had been damaged. Pacific has told the media there still is viable tissue in its tank but UH has not said the same. Two fertility clinic accreditation organizations and the Ohio Department of Health are investigating the storage tank incident at UH. The letter also says that UH is refunding the storage fees of affected patients and will waive storage fees for any of their future treatments for the next seven years.Tom Merriman, an attorney from the Cleveland law firm of Landskroner, Grieco, Merriman who is representing UH patients, characterized the letter as “phony transparency.”“I think the worst thing about this letter is, if you read it, it doesn’t say anything,” Merriman said. “I can’t believe that now, almost two weeks later, UH has no idea how this happened.” The Plain Dealer has reached out to affected patients who received the letter but has yet to hear back.UH said it has fielded more than 900 patients calls through its patient information line and seen 400 patients since the storage tank issue was discovered.  Read more of The Plain Dealer’s coverage of the fertility clinic failures.