R.I hospital blackout investigation

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Investigation underway into blackout that hit three R.I. hospitals Associated Press Sunday, January 23, 2000

The parent company for Rhode Island Hospital said it's investigating Saturday's power failure that forced three hospitals onto backup generators, but left patients unharmed.

There's an internal review underway to determine the cause of the outage that affected Rhode Island Hospital, Hasbro Children's Hospital and Women & Infants Hospital, Jane Bruno, a spokeswoman for Lifespan hospital network, said Sunday.

``We will be looking into the situation and are currently looking into the situation to try to assess what caused the problem,'' she said.

The incident comes four months after another power failure at Rhode Island Hospital, during which one man died.

According to Lifespan, one of Rhode Island Hospital's two feeder lines experienced a power interruption just after noon on Saturday. There were 565 patients in the hospital at the time, including 96 in Hasbro. Woman & Infants receives its electricity supply from Rhode Island Hospital.

It took 30 minutes for Rhode Island Hospital's emergency and operating rooms to regain full power, and nonessential lights and equipment were forced to shut down for as long as two hours.

But generators restored power in most buildings in a matter of seconds and no one was put in danger, Bruno said. One woman who was undergoing surgery to her hand was transferred to recovery without incident.

The hospitals were operating normally Sunday.

The network's electrical consultants who are evaluating power generation and distribution systems are expected to join the investigation Monday.

Although Lifespan called the problem ``external,'' a Narragansett Electric spokesman said the problem was not on the utility's end.

``We've tested our cable and it shows that what happened (Saturday) was not as a result of anything on our side of the gate,'' spokesman Michael Ryan said Sunday.

``Even if one line goes down, there's another line that can pick them up. Why the other line didn't pick up is probably a question better put to the hospital. But we know that other line was live and working,'' he said.

A report on the Sept. 17 power failure at Rhode Island Hospital during which an elderly man died is expected to be out within a month.

Bruno said that enhancements made to the system since the last outage worked as planned since most buildings had power restored moments later.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), January 23, 2000

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