[News story] Scalpel... retractor... swab... flashlight - Richmond surgeons operate in blackout

4 posts / 0 new
Last post
Oxy Moron
Oxy Moron's picture
Last seen: 1 year 5 months ago
Joined: 03/24/2010 - 13:55
Posts: 813
Location: USA
[News story] Scalpel... retractor... swab... flashlight - Richmond surgeons operate in blackout

I know it's an old story but I just found this and thought I'd share it. Just goes to prove that you can never have enough flashlights on hand. Wink


Scalpel... retractor... swab... flashlight   Richmond surgeons operate in blackout


In the midst of last week's big windstorm, the lights in one of Richmond Hospital's operating rooms flickered and went out as a second backup generator died.

That's when a never-before-used contingency plan kicked in for a surgical team in the final stages of a bowel operation.

Out came the flashlights and the surgery was completed.

It was a moment reminiscent of the TV series M*A*S*H, where doctors operated in challenging conditions on the front lines during the Korean War.

"We have to be prepared for anything," said Carolle Sauro, director of acute care at Richmond Hospital.

"We had to go into a MASHunit kind of approach, which staff are trained to do," she said.

The hospital, which lost power at 10: 20 a.m., was among more than 100,000 customers left without power last Monday after high winds battered the B.C. coast.

It switched to backup generators for electricity.

When the first generator overheated and shut down 20 minutes later, the hospital still had two more .

However, when the second generator similarly overheated, the operating rooms lost backup power. The third generator sent power to a different part of the hospital.

While battery power provided some light in the operating room, it was too dim to illuminate the two-to-three hour surgery the medical team needed another 30 minutes or so to complete.

However, like all areas in the hospital, flashlights are kept on hand in operating rooms, said Sauro.

Even though the generators - which are tested monthly - had never failed before, the hospital had a backup plan for the backup plan , including battery power for critical anesthesia and suction equipment in the operating rooms.

The successful completion of the bowel surgery demonstrated the hospital can deal with rare circumstances, said Sauro.

"Everybody pulled together big time and the teamwork and ingenuity and resiliency and professionalism - across not just clinical nursing and physicians, but our engineers and everybody else - was remark-able," she said.

"This was a very unusual situation that has never happened before."

The hospital had been fortunate, as several other surgeries had already been completed before the power went down. Other planned operations were put on hold.

Staff were lauded for keeping patients in critical-care areas safe and comfortable, and helping visitors navigate in the dark.

BC Hydro had the power restored quickly, so there was only about a 20-minute window when generators were down, but, for the team involved, it seemed like a "lifetime," noted Sauro.

In a blog praising the work at Richmond Hospital, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority CEO Dr. David Ostrow also com-pared the actions of staff during the power failure to that in the M*AS*H* TV series.

"In the world of M*A*S*H, every episode or two, some disaster would strike the camp and the surgeons and nurses would be forced to operate in the dark, try a procedure they had only read about, or rise above their training," noted Ostrow.

While Richmond was certainly not a war zone, the work of the staff during the genera-tor failures was exemplary, he said.

Short-term upgrades have already been made to the generators to provide more capacity.

The hospital has also been provided about $2 million from Vancouver Coastal Health Authority to further improve the backup power system.

It's believed the first genera-tor failed because the power draw of the over-capacity hospital was too heavy. The second generator is believed to have failed because it lost cooling ventilation from the first generator.

Edited by: Oxy Moron on 04/12/2012 - 15:49
Confusius's picture
Last seen: 1 month 2 weeks ago
Joined: 04/23/2011 - 20:12
Posts: 265
Location: Germany

But they never mentioned what kind of flashlight it was that saved the day...

Great story! Thanks!

Confusius Say

Take out the fortune before you eat the cookie.

Last seen: 2 years 11 months ago
Joined: 10/30/2011 - 16:15
Posts: 45
Location: canada

Oh wow, I live.. like, literally 10 mins. away from this hospital..

I feel like my memory has gone down the drain.. 

I don't recall any windstorm nor power outage over the past month..Surprised

dorpmuller's picture
Last seen: 2 weeks 11 hours ago
Joined: 10/20/2010 - 18:29
Posts: 816
Location: Central Pa., U.S.A.

And they ask why I carry a light all the time...

"I am the flashlight king! I can light anything!"