Hospital staff had to "protect" a patient undergoing surgery at the Victoria General on Nov. 2 after water leaked through the ceiling of an operating room at the problem-plagued Halifax hospital.

The leak, from an 11th floor sink drain, forced staff to protect the "sterile field" around equipment and also shut down the operating room for a week so everything could be cleaned.

Even so, it took 10 days for a Nova Scotia Health Authority communications advisor to confirm the leak after CBC News first inquired about the problem on Nov. 11. CBC News asked for the information following an email from a source describing what happened.

The source said there was apparently "water running along the fluorescent lights and dripping down for hours while a surgeon was doing a case with highly specialized equipment."

Health authority senior media relations advisor Kristen Lipscombe finally confirmed Tuesday afternoon that a "small leak started trickling from the ceiling" during a surgical procedure on the 10th floor of the Centenial Building at the VG site.

"Sorry about the delay on this. It required a bit of digging on my end," Lipscombe said in an email.

Lipscombe said the patient undergoing the procedure was notified of what happened and "assured neither the procedure nor his health were impacted as a result."

She said the room and everything in it was was "properly inspected and thoroughly cleaned" before it could be returned to service a week later.

Leaks big and small

The VG has been plagued by leaks big and small for years, and the province has pledged to close the site.

Patients at the aging hospital complex are also warned not to drink the tap water or use it to brush their teeth because the pipes contain legionella bacteria.

On Wednesday, Nova Scotia Auditor General criticized the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the Department of Health for its inability to communicate properly with the public.

That criticism was specific to ongoing plans to transform the health system, but the authority has tightly controlled information since it was created two years ago.

For instance, the health authority's board meetings are not open to the public and minutes are not posted. By contrast, IWK Health Centre board meetings are open to the public.