GPHC says prolonged power outage caused by damaged switch

-denies KN death story
By Tiffny Rhodius

The Georgetown Public Hospital (GPHC) yesterday said a prolonged power outage on Monday night was due to a damaged switch and denied that the death of a three-year-old girl there was as a result of this.

In a statement, the management of the medical institution said that at around 8:30 pm on Monday, the hospital experienced a power failure “from the Thomas Street feeder” which lasted for about two and a half hours. “This failure caused the back up generator to transfer power into the main load system of the ACDC (Ambulatory Care Diagnostic Centre) building which houses the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Main Operating Theatre, Accident and Emergency Unit, Paediatric Ward among other departments”, the release said.

It declared that an article in yesterday’s edition of the Kaieteur News headlined “Blackout cripples Georgetown Hospital generator- three year old succumbs as staff operates machines manually” which suggested that the patient died as a result of the power outage is contrary to the facts of the matter and (contains) “erroneous insinuations and libellous statements”.

“Of significant importance is the fact that the patient’s death was not related and/or due to the power outage as was erroneously stated…”, the hospital declared. It stated that the patient in question, died due to her prolonged illness, Nephrotic Syndrome, and not because a machine had failed. “Management view this statement as totally slanderous,” the release said.

In its article, the Kaieteur News had reported that “in the Paediatric Unit, this newspaper also observed staffers valiantly performing CPR on a three-year old girl, as her grandmother wept nearby”. It went on to say that a senior medical staffer confirmed that the life support machines at the hospital had shut down.

However, the Hospital said, the patient was not attached to a Ventilator – which is a breathing apparatus, but was on a Cardiac Monitor which monitors the pulse, blood pressure and heart rate and which has a backup system in the event of a power failure. It declared that the oxygen supply, vacuum and compressed air to the ACDC building were not affected by the outage and all the other departments were in receipt of those services.

Meanwhile, speaking with Stabroek News yesterday, Director of the Facilities Management at the Hospital, Parmannand Samaroo said the extended power outage at the GPHC was due to the shutdown of its emergency generators’ Auto Trans Switch which went up in a “high gush of smoke” after Guyana Power and Light (GPL) technicians were attempting to re-attach a fuse spur.

He explained that around 8.25 on Monday night, the hospital suffered a power outage from the Thomas Street Feeder which he said, saw the emergency generators coming on and transferring power to the affected building. He said that the technician on duty while carrying out routine checks for high voltage signs as per hospital procedure; observed that one of the high voltage spurs was out and suspected a blown fuse since he saw it was open. Samaroo said that the technician then called GPL and the power company’s technicians responded some 45 minutes later. He stressed that at this time, the backup generators were still supplying power to the affected building.

Samaroo related that GPL’s technicians replaced the blown fuse and attempted to reclose the spur which led to an “arc and the fuse blew again”.
He emphasized that the generators were working all the while and the GPL technicians then unhooked the other two spurs before putting a solid link on the blown fuse. It was while they were hooking up “the second fuse there was a flash and explosion followed by the shut down of the number one generator”, he said.

The facilities management director said this was followed by the shut down of the number two generator, which was “discovered” after the technician on duty entered the switch room and noticed the smoke and burning smell emanating from the generator’s Auto Trans Switch.

It was around 10.30pm that the ACDC building was plunged into darkness and Samaroo said that the building endured the lengthy blackout because technicians from MACORP had to travel from Soesdyke to check the system. When the technicians arrived, the system was put into bypass mode, Samaroo said, adding that power was restored at approximately 12.30 am.

Up to late yesterday morning, the ACDC building was still on backup power though Samaroo asserted that the situation was expected to be rectified shortly. He said they were reluctant to switch over until internal investigations revealed exactly what caused the generators shut down. While Samaroo speculated that a surge may be the cause of the shutdown, he said that their technicians and GPL were working together to identify the actual cause. He noted that the system had returned to normal after it was bypassed but said that they will continue to be operated manually with an added technician on duty to help with the change over.

Samaroo stressed that operating the system in manual mode does not affect the power supply and automatic transfer will be fully restored in two weeks time. He commended GPL’s response to the report, stating that the technicians stayed until the generators were back on-line. He pointed out that Monday night’s failure in no way affects the backup power supply since the system has a high availability and reliability index.

Meanwhile, as the hospital and GPL technicians worked to restore power to the ACDC building, some of the patients who were there, said they had been fearful but most eventually gave way to sleep, according to reports. Speaking with Stabroek News, a female patient said that she was on oxygen and thus not very aware of what took place. Some expressed fear for persons in surgery and others a general fear but most wondered when the power was going to come back on.

They all said that they fell asleep before the power was restored and didn’t seem too shaken by the occurrence. One hospital employee said that it was the longest outage in her memory since the backup generators usually kicked in about ten minutes after the power failed.

In their statement yesterday, the GPHC extended appreciation to its staff for keeping their composure and working assiduously during the period to ensure that all affected patients were treated and monitored efficiently. The hospital also extended its condolences to the family of the deceased.

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