Cranbrook, B.C. Hospital Power Problems : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Ottawa Citizen

Friday, October 12, 2001

CRANBROOK, B.C. (CP) - A faulty generator backup system that failed three days in a row has closed the four operating rooms at the Cranbrook Regional Hospital until further notice.

The operating rooms went down after a power failure Tuesday and were to reopen Thursday but stayed down after the backup generators failed during a routine test.

Roger Walker, hospital chief executive officer, said the four operating rooms will remain closed indefinitely and there will be no elective surgery until the backup system is fixed.

Walker said only emergency surgery involving life- or limb-threatening cases will be allowed until further notice.

"This failure is one that we would consider to be major," he said. "It was not catastrophic because it had no dire consequences (but) it could have been catastrophic and that of course is the major focus of our planning and concerns since then."

The problem started when a massive power failure hit Cranbrook on Tuesday.

The power was out for 48 minutes and caused havoc at the hospital when its two emergency backup generators failed to kick in properly.

Walker said the first backup generator kicked in initially, but only produced power for about 10 minutes before failing. At this point the second backup generator kicked in but it too failed after about 10 minutes, he said.

The operating rooms were then plunged into darkness with physicians and staff forced to use flashlights and the battery-powered emergency lights in the facility.

Walker said this situation lasted for about 30 minutes, but no patients were endangered although a woman, who was in labour at the time of the outage, gave birth 10 minutes after the power was restored.

Another patient in a different operating room was undergoing minor nose surgery without anesthetic when the power failed.

"It (the power failure) did not have any consequences at all for the patient and the surgery was completed successfully with the emergency lighting," Walker said.

This was followed by circuit-breaker failures at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday, resulting in the administration's decision to shut down the operating rooms indefinitely until the power situation is resolved, Walker said.

As well as the failure of two circuit breakers, problems were also experienced with the cooling systems of both backup generators, he said.

A consulting engineer from Stantec and Associates in Calgary was expected at the hospital Friday to determine why the generators are failing, Walker said.

The Health Ministry has also been alerted and is expected to investigate, he said. A previous internal review of the hospital's electrical and mechanical systems identified $6 million in needed upgrading and repairs, he said.

Dr. Ross Dawson, hospital medical staff president, said only luck averted a disaster when the system first went down.

"You could have had somebody in the operating room who was having an internal operation and in that situation scrambling around for flashlights trying to figure out what to do would have been extremely difficult," he said.

-- Rachel Gibson (, October 14, 2001

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