[LINK] Power failure lasting 36 hours cripples hospital care

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Wed May 6 09:36:49 AEST 2009

A potential risk with eMRs and eHRs, especially when centralised.

Power failure lasting 36 hours cripples hospital care
Kate Benson
Medical Reporter
May 6, 2009

Doctors at more than 100 hospitals in the state could not access patient 
records or vital test results for up to 36 hours last weekend after a 
power failure crippled NSW Health's computerised database.

Some records were lost, X-ray and pathology results could not be 
accessed and staff were forced to use whiteboards to keep track of 
emergency patients after the main server shut down at 9am on Saturday 
because of a faulty circuit-breaker.

Back-up power from the Cumberland Data Centre, which provides computer 
access to the Greater Western, Greater Southern and Sydney West area 
health services also failed, plunging some of the busiest hospitals in 
the state into chaos.

Thousands of patients were affected, with doctors and nurses forced to 
take notes on paper and go to other parts of the hospital to collect 
hard copies of results, extending treatment times and adding to the 

Some staff, who did not want to be named, said the weekend was chaotic 
and a shambles. One surgeon said it was fortunate no lives were lost.

The chief executive of Sydney West Area Health Service, Steven Boyages, 
said hospital blackouts that lasted more than 30 to 60 minutes were 
unacceptable, but the Health Minister, John Della Bosca, insisted 
patients were not put at risk. "At no time was there any threat to 
patient care or safety," he said yesterday.

The Opposition spokeswoman on health, Jillian Skinner, said the blackout 
was "a serious failure" with great potential for disaster.

"Hospitals affected not only lost access to patient records, some lost 
some patient records altogether … and couldn't access X-rays unless they 
physically went to the X-ray department for a film copy," she said. 
"John Della Bosca should explain why the patient records system lost 
power, why back-up systems also failed, and whether patient safety was 

A spokesman for Mr Della Bosca said workers doing routine maintenance at 
the data centre had triggered the outage. No patients had reported 
problems connected to the blackout but a full investigation would be 
launched. "If necessary changes will be implemented to prevent a 
recurrence," he said.

with Louise Hall


Hospitals at Westmead, Auburn, Blacktown, Nepean, Lithgow, Mount Druitt, 
Cumberland, Blue Mountains, Dubbo, Bathurst, Orange, Mudgee, Parkes, 
Bourke, Albury, Queanbeyan and Goulburn were affected.


Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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