EVERY AFFECTED LABORATORY knows the precise time. Somewhere between 4:00 and 4:15 P.M. EST last Thursday is when the local power company stopped feeding electricity in cities ranging from New York City west to Toledo, Detroit and parts of Canada.
As of press time, many labs in affected cities lacked even phone service. THE DARK REPORT was able to reach several hospital labs, however, for an early assessment of how the power blackout affected their operations.
Waiting For Full Power
At Detroit Medical Center (DMC), William Neeley, M.D., Medical Director of Laboratories was blunt. “Right now I’m sitting in the dark with no air conditioning. It’s a catastrophe that’s challenged both our hospital and our lab,” he declared.
“Our UPS and battery back-ups allowed us to safely shut down the instrument systems when the power failed,” said McNeeley. “Using emergency power from the hospital generators, we’ve kept some instruments operational. All critical testing has been maintained. We are hand-entering orders and hand-delivering lab test reports.
“Our computers are operating, but without air conditioning, they can’t be used,” he continued. “In the computer room, the temperature is 90 degrees and chillers were brought in to help lower the temperature.”
Another unexpected problem from the city-wide power outage is the lack of running water in the lab. “As a result, we don’t have de-ionized water for certain instruments,” stated McNeeley. “Another impact on the laboratory is that, because only certain bathrooms in the hospital are functional, our people have to travel quite a ways. As of Friday noon, we’ve had no word as to when full power may be restored.”
Across the border in the Canadian Providence of Ontario, pathologist Murray Treloar, M.D., Director of Laboratory Services at Lake Ridge Health in Oshawa, was in the process of catching up. “Power was returned to our laboratory around 4:00 a.m. this morning. So we are back-entering orders and results.
“We had the usual hiccups when the power failed and we shifted to our back-up systems,” he said. “One instrument didn’t survive the change-over, but that was the exception. With only one elevator working in the hospital, our lab staff had plenty of exercise throughout the night, drawing specimens, getting them to the lab, and delivering results by hand.”
In New York City, the impact of the power outage was more significant on laboratories. Because phone systems were down on Friday, specific details of unique lab management issues will not be known for several more days.