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HomeBusinessCOVID Exclusive: Royal Columbian Hospital power outage worse than reported

COVID Exclusive: Royal Columbian Hospital power outage worse than reported

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Bob Mackin

The Dec. 19 power outage at Royal Columbian Hospital was more serious than originally reported.

A source who is familiar with the incident, but not authorized to comment publicly, said impacts were felt throughout the New Westminster hospital.

Royal Columbian Hospital (Fraser Health)

Two intensive care unit patients were in operating rooms when the lights went out. A patient was moved from one of the darkened operating rooms to another operating room.

Electrified doors could not be opened, a neurosurgery procedure had to be completed by headlamps and the Omnicell automated medication dispensing cabinet was temporarily closed, the source said.

“Last Saturday a power outage impacted medication access from Omnicell ADCs,” read the Dec. 24 downtime procedures memo from the pharmacy department. “There was some confusion how staff were to access medications during the short downtime.”

Ten admitted patients in the emergency department were transferred to other areas unaffected by the power outage. The good news is, no patients were harmed. But it could have been worse.

Fraser Health Authority told theBreaker.news that the outage, which lasted less than an hour, was related to construction at the hospital’s campus. 

Spokeswoman Carrie Stefanson said an internal investigation found “ongoing redevelopment work on the Royal Columbian Hospital campus led to the failure of the electrical circuit breaker that controls power to the health care centre.”

In May, the Journal of Commerce reported on Bird Design-Build Construction Inc.’s $1.35 billion modernization of the hospital. Contractor Glenco Electrical handled the $28 million electrical design and construction, including installation of two 3.25 megawatt high voltage generators.

Stefanson said the incident only affected vital circuits within the health care centre and emergency department. Power for the rest of the building and hospital campus remained on. The failed circuit breaker was replaced.

Why did no backup generator kick-in to keep the lights on?

“Emergency generators did not come online because there was no loss of power to the hospital campus itself,” she said.

Meanwhile, Fraser Health has admitted that coronavirus patients are being “double-bunked” at Royal Columbian, Surrey Memorial and Abbotsford Regional hospitals.

Abbotsford Regional Hospital (Fraser Health)

Fraser Health said renovations have enabled two patients in one room, with oversight from a single nurse. It means that ICU staff can use fewer masks and goggles.

“If there are two patients within one ICU room, this means the nurse or physician can provide care to both without having to leave and go to another room – this saves time and PPE,” Stefanson said.

Abbotsford has job vacancies due to attrition and maternity leaves. Additional staff will join in January.

The Canadian Association of Critical Care Nurses Position Statement says that most critical care patients require one critical care registered nurse, “however there will be times when higher (two critical care RNs to one patient) or lower (one critical care RN to two patients) ratios are appropriate as long as the above three factors (the patient, the nurse and the environment) have been sufficiently and safely addressed.”

“Nurses who work in the ICU receive a Critical Care Nursing Certificate after completing their training and testing that is accredited through the American Association of Critical Care Nurses,” Stefanson said. “Fraser Health is part of a provincial initiative to support registered nurses wishing to advance their knowledge and skills, including skills in critical care nursing.”

Fraser Health did not release statistics on staffing at the three ICUs.

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