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Hospitals handle power outage smoothly

By BRETT NAUMAN

Eagle Staff Writer

The backup power generators at both local hospitals began to hum shortly before noon Tuesday after the lights went out in Bryan and College Station.

Despite the outage, the generators provided electricity at the College Station Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Regional Health Center for physicians to treat patients in need of emergency care, officials at both facilities said.

The outage, which lasted for more than three hours Tuesday afternoon, caused no major problems at either hospital, though both facilities canceled all non-emergency surgeries for the day.

The diesel-fueled generator at the Medical Center was activated within five to seven seconds of the outage and could have powered the facility for as long as two weeks, said Frank Hartman, director of facilities. Physicians are used to switching from city power to generator power because the facility does so once a month to make sure the generators are working, he said.

“Normally, we do our generator loads for 30 minutes. Today, it was a little longer than that,” Hartman said.

The generator at St. Joseph’s provides electricity only to sections of the hospital housing patients whose lives are potentially in jeopardy, such as the emergency room, the intensive care unit and operating rooms, said Tim Ottinger, vice president of communications.

Tuesday’s outage caused an increase in patients at St. Joseph’s emergency room who were involved in car accidents immediately after the blackout, Ottinger said.

Hospital officials were pleased overall with the way the generators kicked on and how staff handled the situation, Ottinger said. He said he knows of at least two emergency surgeries that were performed successfully during the outage.

“We wouldn’t want to do this every day, but it went well,” Ottinger said. “The generator worked the way it was designed to work. It supplied power to critical areas where it was needed.”

Meanwhile, at the Scott & White Clinic, patients were turned away as soon as the lights went out, said Tracy Brown, director of marketing and communications at the clinic’s corporate headquarters in Temple.

Physicians at the clinic had to use light from windows to finish work on patients who already were being treated at the outpatient facility, Brown said. While employees at the clinic were able to communicate with each other, phone calls could neither go out or come in until power was restored, Brown said.

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