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Purely Dominica

Purely Dominica

I was supprise, when I learnt that the Princees Margaret Hospital experienced a major power outage lasting over an hour last weekend. You would want to think that the hospital is last place you would want to experience a power blackout.

There were claims that doctors and nurses were attending to patient using flashlights.

On Wednesday, the acting Hospital Administrator Mrs. Valencia Williams held a media press conference in an attempt to explain the blackout and why the PMH “two” generators where not working.

According to Mrs. Williams:

“As soon as electricity goes our generators automatically switches on but this time the fuel in the generators were contaminated and it messed up our filter. This we could not have known unless it actually happens.”

“The tanks are expected to be serviced by West Indies Oil but since I have been at the hospital I have never seen them. That service has not been done so the muck stayed there. Thank God nothing happened and that the nurses and doctors were able to take care of their patients. I just thank God for that.”

It is embarrassing to learn of this near tragedy; even more embarrassing was the remarks made by the Acting Hospital Administrator – whose only comment to the nation was “thank God that nothing happened.”

I can’t help to think – what would happen if there was a major accident and people had to be rushed into the operations room? PEOPLE, We’re talking about people lives here…for God sake 😈 …Have your say! Share them in the comments.

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Comment by Kristen
2008-12-06 00:58:46

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans there were hospitals there that had generators that malfunctioned. It does happen…and it really pushes medical personnel to their limits. Mechanical failure due to things beyond our control is one thing. But this remark…

“The tanks are expected to be serviced by West Indies Oil but since I have been at the hospital I have never seen them. That service has not been done so the muck stayed there.”

indicates that a checks and balance system or a service log could have prevented the outage. I suppose the hospital does not have that ? That is something that could be a simple preventative measure.

Comment by pete
2008-12-09 07:59:04

It is one thing to not have a supply of critical supplies because say, the shipment got stuck in customs, but for a hospital not to have standing emergency equipment in ready to go mode is more than a travesty. It is not acceptable. Part of a hospital’s function is to deal with emergencies. And as such, all supporting ancilliaries and auxiliaries must be prepared to play their role. It is a matter not for the administrator to pass on to her operations people and simply report what they are saying. One must ask the critical questions and ensure that their is specific operational policy on these things, seeking expert technical advice as apprropriate. The public must also be re-assured that steps have or will be taken to avoid future re-occurances.

When the adminstrator says that she has not seen the company, who supposedly should have done the preventative work on the fuel system to begin with, then whose job is it to ensure that they perform their obligation? To start with, having a fuel supply company service the fuel filters is not acceptable or even necessary. It should be a function of the engine maintenance personnel.

Now lets assume that the management was simply following advice and were duped by the fuel company who failed to meet their obligations. However, it goes without saying that you have to test a back up system regularly. More so, when it is known that the power supply is not very reliable.

Considering that the island just came through the hurricane season, (with fresh memories of hurricane Omar just in October) you would think that back up systems would be ready to go for a power cut emergency. Indeed, given the way the power company has been operating over the years, this is a no-brainer situation to be at.

Dominica has so much practical experience from disasters, that I would not take any consolation from what happened with Hurricane Katrina. We cannot excuse this simply because supposedly more organized systems have failed. Indeed there are so many other grid back up systems in countries like the US for critical consumers like hospitals, that persons get lackadaisical regarding the back-ups. Such was the case with Katrina (though not excusing them). Most people never actually believed it would happen. In Dominica, the hospital has seen the power cut scenario dozens, perhaps hundreds of times. We can expect it to happen.

As someone in the practice of engineering, (and knowing intimately the type of equipment concerned and the service requirements) a log alone is not the magic bullet. One has to have the competence to put service items on the log to start with. One has to know what is critical and what the required frequency of servicing that critical item is; to know what the implications are, if the correct service is not followed and to alert or advise authorities of consequencies, if the critical (maintenance) service is interrupted. Even when one outsources certain aspects of the maintenance one must be careful about the reliability and availability of the service and also ensure certain warranties are coverered. I will not go into the technical aspects regarding servicing of the equipment in question, except to say that the situation could have been avoided. Totally. I only hope that the hospital administrator can ask the right questions moving forward and ensure she has the right technical competence back up and operations management protocols to minimize such occurences in the future.

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