Winnipeg’s Grace Hospital had to temporarily shut down its operating rooms Thursday and into Friday because the air and ventilation system could no longer maintain the level of humidity needed for the safest operation.

“The reality is when you have a prolonged period of heat like this, it does put a strain on the mechanical systems,” said Dr. Brock Wright from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

Water droplets forming on equipment and falling from the ceiling could affect sterility and increase the risk of infection. As a precaution, the Grace Hospital closed all of the operating rooms Thursday morning, cancelling 16 surgeries.

“There was one surgery that was an emergency medical surgical procedure that we did end up transferring to the Health Sciences Centre,” said Wright.

Winnipeg operating rooms have alarms that go off when humidity levels become a concern.

Officials said many hospitals in North America face the same problem and will cancel surgeries to maintain safety standards.

“It happens anywhere when humidity is high. It’s been awhile, but it has happened in Winnipeg before,” said Wright.

Health officials aren’t anticipating any further surgical cancellations or patient transfers.

Engineers and facility management are working on the air filtration system.

One of the operating rooms at the Grace re-opened Friday and the hospital plans to have the rest available by July 6.

Officials said they’re going to accommodate the cancelled surgeries as best they can and add operating times, if necessary.

Ken Wilson wasn’t affected by the cancellations, but has had five previous surgeries. He said he understands the stress of being on wait lists for operations, but also knows the need to follow protocol.

“If they determined that they couldn’t (have surgeries) for safety reasons…that would be fine with me,” he said.

- with a report from Alesia Fieldberg