State errors LA hospital with power outage

A power outage that forced the evacuation of hundreds of patients at a Boyle Heights hospital last summer was the result of deficiencies in the facility's maintenance, a “defective practice” that could put patients at risk of not receiving needed care, found state investigators.

In August, Adventist Health White Memorial lost power hours after Southern California was hit by a storm named Hilary. Babies and intensive care patients were among those who had to be moved after power went out in part of the hospital, including a building that housed the neonatal intensive care unit. Some patients were moved elsewhere on the hospital campus, while others were moved to other hospitals.

The LA Fire Department said firefighters had to take patients downstairs when elevators weren't working and helped some breathe with mask ventilators that rely on squeezing inflatable bags. A baby was born during the outage, assisted by staff shining flashlights, an Adventist Health spokesperson said.

Hospital officials told reporters that they had backup generators, but the generator's power had gone out hours after normal power went out.

California Department of Public Health investigators found that hospital workers charged with maintaining the Boyle Heights facility had failed to control humidity in an interior tunnel, causing electrical equipment that connects an emergency generator to the hospital to fail. was defective.

That led to the total loss of power in two buildings where patients are held – the East Tower and the Specialty Care Tower – “putting patients at risk of not receiving necessary care and treatments,” researchers found in their report.

Hospital officials told investigators that days before the outage, they discovered a leak in a steam line in a tunnel between the central plant — which carries chilled water and steam to heating and cooling systems — and the facility, the state report said.

Staff at the facility tried to cover electrical equipment with plastic to protect it from the high humidity, a hospital official told state investigators. Hospital officials planned to shut down and repair the steam system on Aug. 23, the state report said — but on Aug. 21 the storm hit and knocked out power.

“Patient safety is our top priority,” Adventist Health White Memorial said in a written statement.

“Since the outage, we have worked with the city and regulators to confirm our processes were robust and ensure our equipment is in top condition,” the hospital said. “Our hospital has generator power that goes above and beyond regulatory requirements, providing an additional layer of security for all who rely on us.”

The hospital added that it had immediately begun repairs to the damaged equipment.

Adventist Health White Memorial said the electrical equipment that failed was “designed to withstand severe conditions.” But after the outage, the hospital installed a moisture monitoring device, which was not a legal requirement but “a suggestion after this incident,” the hospital said, adding that its technicians monitor it daily.

Boyle Heights Hospital was not fined because of the state's findings. In November, state investigators have returned and concluded that the issues raised in their previous report had been addressed.

“Thankfully, thanks to the heroic efforts of our healthcare providers, we were able to keep all of our patients and staff safe and successfully recover” from the outage, the hospital said in a statement.

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