Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Opinion

Expert strata, facilities & building management services

Total power outage at Calvary Hospital, but Code Yellow not activated?

By PantsMan - 29 January 2013 34

On Saturday, the Canberra Times brought word that the Australia Day storm caused a total power outage at Calvary Hospital:

Calvary Hospital lost all power, both main and auxiliary, for about 30 minutes during the storm.

No patients were affected and no operations were being conducted during the storm.

But the hospital came close to declaring a “code yellow”, or an internal disaster, after the auxiliary power failed to kick in automatically.

A hospital spokesman said the issue was being rectified, and was caused by the abnormal and incredible amount of rain.

Firstly, it is just frightening that the backup power supply did not activate because of “the abnormal and incredible amount of rain.” I take this as meaning the emergency power supply cannot cope with emergencies.

The statement by the Hospital that, essentially, no one died because there were no operations being conducted at 6.30 pm on a Saturday (which also happened to be a public holiday) so everything is OK smacks of the usual lackadaisical ACT Government approach to critical service delivery and demonstrable and life-threatening systemic failures. We need a real explanation of how this occurred and what is being done to fix it, not just flippant reassurances.

Secondly, one might be surprised to know that there is, in fact, an Australian Standard known as AS4083 Planning for emergencies – health care facilities. Code Yellow is defined as an internal emergency relating to the failure of utilities such as gas, water, electricity and communications systems.

While I cannot access the full standard, it is clear that hospitals are also required to develop clear procedures to be followed during such emergencies, including clear activation procedures.

How on earth can a total power failure for half an hour in a major tertiary hospital not constitute an internal emergency such that the presumably clear and precise procedures regarding declaring a Code Yellow were not followed? I mean, they do have procedures, right?

I suspect that some bumbling Calvary Hospital bureaucrat decided to err on the side of not declaring a Code Yellow so as to avoid drawing attention to this total stuff up.

I would be interested in hearing the views of medicos with some inside knowledge of what actually happened in this case.

What a disgrace.

What’s Your opinion?


Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
34 Responses to
Total power outage at Calvary Hospital, but Code Yellow not activated?
JC 9:08 am 30 Jan 13

wildturkeycanoe said :

Water may not have affected the generator directly, but if the electricity that comes out of it had somehow been in contact with water – well, zap, bang, sparks everywhere!!!! Perhaps there was an electrical connection box or switchboard drenched in H2O that shorted out the power and tripped a main circuit breaker to prevent someone being electrocuted or the generator itself frying to a crispy copper blob. Whatever the reason, backup systems aren’t infallible, just look at the IT industry. To keep our phone lines going there is mains power which is backed by generators. This then charges batteries, which in turn provide the necessary 50V DC to run our internet and phones. It’s called N + 1, meaning you have a dual redundancy system, if one fails, the other kicks in. Perhaps the hospitals, with possible life threatening consequences if power is lost, should investigate a dual redundancy system too.

They do have that. Next time your in hospital have a look at the beds and the different coloured power points. One will be non-essential which is feed directly off the mains, which if it fails will go off, but will come back when the generator kicks in, which normally takes around 10-30 seconds. Another power point, normally red, this will be feed off a building wide UPS system that will be designed to keep power at full load for x-number of minutes even if generator and mains are failed.

The building lights will probably have most on non-essential with maybe 1 in 5 on UPS.

Then there is the equipment itself, many of the drip/monitors etc you see in the wards will have their own battery back-up so can probably go into non-essential power system and you can bet everything in the operating theatres and ICU will be on essential. Contrary to what we may think places like hospitals would take this shit very seriously and would have thought out all the possible scenarios and have contingency plans. The fact that Calvary didn’t call the code yellow doesn’t mean what they did was wrong, it tells me that had the matter well and truley in hand. So I have no idea why the OP thinks the whole thing is a disgrace. Looks to me they had an issue and they handled it, the rest seems like a beat-up for no reason what so ever.

JC 9:00 am 30 Jan 13

breda said :

@ JC

“The rain the other night was of an intensity like I have never seen before so not a surprise that it effected the generators.”

—————————————————–

Quality comment. “Affected” is the word you are looking for, otherwise the generators would have been working. And since you must only have lived here for 5 minutes, or have a poor memory, the rest is nonsense. I’ve only been here for a bit over 20 years, and remember worse downpours (the evidence being water coming into my house).

I agree that the Calvary incident is worrying, and it was just sheer dumb luck that some poor bugger on the operating table didn’t end up in a very bad situation.

I am not sure where in Canberra you live, but in all the time I’ve lived here (I moved here in 78 and have lived outside of Canberra for 6 years in that time) that was the worst. I live in Dunlop and the storm came from the north west so maybe the intensity here was greater than elsewhere. I have lived in my current house for 12 years and not once have I ever had water actually coming inside the house, which was a result of a combination of heavy rain and wind. Part of the ceiling in my neighbours house collapsed due to the amount of water that got into their roof and I lost two 4m high trees, one of which fell over the day after roots and all due to all the bloody water. So maybe you have seen worse once or twice.

As for the hospital thanks for the grammar lesson, have said it before I like many others make common mistakes like that, but clearly you knew what I was talking about. But with the generator an engineer can only design, test and certify for what they know to be the worst case scenario based on the information they have. No matter what you can guarantee the scenario you thought couldn’t happen does and then equipment fails.

There is absolutely no suggestion (as inferred in this thread) that the generators at Calvary were not tested nor maintained properly, sometimes shit happens.

PS you will find the operating theatres and ICU in addition to mains power will be fronted by massive true on-line UPS systems. These UPS feed their circuits off the batteries and are topped up by mains, or if it fails the generator when it kicks in. They only have a finite amount of capacity when both mains and generator fail, but I have no doubt what so ever that there are procedures in place to cover the situation if both failed and the other night I don’t reckon one person was ever in danger and if they were they would have enacted their contingency procedures.

wildturkeycanoe 6:03 am 30 Jan 13

Water may not have affected the generator directly, but if the electricity that comes out of it had somehow been in contact with water – well, zap, bang, sparks everywhere!!!! Perhaps there was an electrical connection box or switchboard drenched in H2O that shorted out the power and tripped a main circuit breaker to prevent someone being electrocuted or the generator itself frying to a crispy copper blob. Whatever the reason, backup systems aren’t infallible, just look at the IT industry. To keep our phone lines going there is mains power which is backed by generators. This then charges batteries, which in turn provide the necessary 50V DC to run our internet and phones. It’s called N + 1, meaning you have a dual redundancy system, if one fails, the other kicks in. Perhaps the hospitals, with possible life threatening consequences if power is lost, should investigate a dual redundancy system too.

breda 8:34 pm 29 Jan 13

@ JC

“The rain the other night was of an intensity like I have never seen before so not a surprise that it effected the generators.”

—————————————————–

Quality comment. “Affected” is the word you are looking for, otherwise the generators would have been working. And since you must only have lived here for 5 minutes, or have a poor memory, the rest is nonsense. I’ve only been here for a bit over 20 years, and remember worse downpours (the evidence being water coming into my house).

I agree that the Calvary incident is worrying, and it was just sheer dumb luck that some poor bugger on the operating table didn’t end up in a very bad situation.

Ko. 8:01 pm 29 Jan 13

RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE!

So much outrage over something you can only speculate about.

Antagonist 7:59 pm 29 Jan 13

JC said :

Two points. I know of no system that is TOTALLY immune from extreme events like weather, and even if there was a system that claimed to be I bet it cannot be tested for every possible scenario. The rain the other night was of an intensity like I have never seen before so not a surprise that it effected the generators.

But that is exactly the scenario that backup generators are installed for. How is it that rain was able to affect its operation? Is the generator covered, or exposed to the elements? Is it installed on high ground, or at a low point that fills with water in extreme weather events? These are all factors that are supposed to be considered when purchasing, installing and maintaining a backup generator for something as important as a hospital. And still, the generator failed when it was needed …

As for the code yellow at the end of the day what does it mean to YOU if they did or didn’t call it? Were you there? Were you part of the crisis management team? No didn’t think so. Personally I have faith that who ever is in charge knows what they are doing and if things got that bad I have no doubt they would have put in place what ever contingencies a code yellow dictates. The fact they didn’t doesn’t make them incompetent, unless of course you can give us a first hand account showing they were.

We can predict future events by learning from the past. How do you feel about being on the operating table having surgery, knowing the backup generators are not able to do their job during extreme weather? And when the generators do not kick in, management will not bother to declare code yellow. F*&# that. Send me to TCH where I only have to worry about fudged reporting data.

screaming banshee 7:22 pm 29 Jan 13

JC said :

The rain the other night was of an intensity like I have never seen before so not a surprise that it effected the generators.

If the rain effected the generators we wouldn’t be discussing this.

I seem to recall some recent criticism over the generator testing at TCH causing problems, so which is it, test the system fully and regularly or not.

RAGD 7:13 pm 29 Jan 13

Grail said :

I would be more interested in seeing how often emergency procedures are tested: fire drills, power failure, switching off the mains to make sure the backup supply (and all battery operated equipment) is working correctly.

If there is no money for testing emergency procedures at least once a year perhaps we could avoid more public art installations in order to raise the required money?

If it isn’t tested, assume it is broken.

While I appreciate the fact that procedures/equipment should be tested at least annually, a Hospital is probably the hardest place to test them. Procedures, Continuity and Disasters plans can be tested to some degree, but how do you test all power failure at a hospital? I think a ” I am sorry for your child/significant other/family member, but we can’t do anything for them at the moment as we are running a Disaster Recovery scenario, to test whether our generators will kick in with all power off” wouldn’t quite cut it.

FioBla 5:04 pm 29 Jan 13

Due to Monday being a holiday, only Tuesday morning quarterbacking is available.

JC 4:44 pm 29 Jan 13

Two points. I know of no system that is TOTALLY immune from extreme events like weather, and even if there was a system that claimed to be I bet it cannot be tested for every possible scenario. The rain the other night was of an intensity like I have never seen before so not a surprise that it effected the generators.

As for the code yellow at the end of the day what does it mean to YOU if they did or didn’t call it? Were you there? Were you part of the crisis management team? No didn’t think so. Personally I have faith that who ever is in charge knows what they are doing and if things got that bad I have no doubt they would have put in place what ever contingencies a code yellow dictates. The fact they didn’t doesn’t make them incompetent, unless of course you can give us a first hand account showing they were.

ToastFliesRED 2:03 pm 29 Jan 13

Just a point of clarification, Calvary HealthCare (incorporating Calvary Public and Private Hospitals and the Calvary Clinic) is run by The Little Company of Mary under contract to the ACT Government, so it’s a contracted lackadaisical approach. But agree 100% cannot figure out why a code yellow was not called when backup failed

“OK smacks of the usual lackadaisical ACT Government approach to critical service delivery and demonstrable and life-threatening systemic failures”

Grail 12:34 pm 29 Jan 13

I would be more interested in seeing how often emergency procedures are tested: fire drills, power failure, switching off the mains to make sure the backup supply (and all battery operated equipment) is working correctly.

If there is no money for testing emergency procedures at least once a year perhaps we could avoid more public art installations in order to raise the required money?

If it isn’t tested, assume it is broken.

SupaSal 11:13 am 29 Jan 13

there is an ICU at Calvary, but the machines can run on battery – guessing there was not vented patient in ICU at the time!

s-s-a 9:53 am 29 Jan 13

Is there an ICU at Calvary?

f4te 9:44 am 29 Jan 13

If a tree falls in a forest and no one gets hit, do we need a warning about falling trees? Presumably the Code Yellow would have been declared if there was a threat to life, which apparently there wasn’t.

1 2 3

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
www.the-riotact.com | www.b2bmagazine.com.au | www.thisiscanberra.com

Search across the site