In response to the growing coronavirus crisis, Powered for Patients has provided guidance information to federal, state and local public health officials about the potential vulnerability of hospital emergency power systems that rely on a single generator.
Recent news reports have highlighted the potential shortage of ventilators should the scale of the outbreak reach a level where tens of thousands of Americans need respirators. An estimated 16% of U.S. hospitals use only a single generator and nearly all Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs), including those licensed to provide respirator care for patients, rely on a single generator. While a ventilator can be operated manually by clinicians to keep a patient alive, this is only done for short periods of time in extreme situations when utility or emergency power is not available.
Facilities relying on a single generator for emergency power support have no redundant emergency power in the event that their single generator fails. This represents an increased risk that should be considered by public health officials and those operating hospitals and SNFs with single generator emergency power systems.
“It’s important to note that with proper maintenance, single generators may have a low risk of failure,” said Powered for Patients project director Eric Cote. “Yet, the consequences of losing emergency power in a facility with a single generator are for more serious than the loss of a single generator in a facility with multiple generators.”
The Powered for Patients guidance information advises facilities currently treating or slated to receive coronavirus patients to test their emergency power system prior to receiving patients (or prior to receiving additional ventilator patients.) This suggestion reflects lessons learned in 2019 when Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) in California triggered the failures of emergency power in two hospitals and five skilled nursing facilities.
The Powered for Patients guidance material also includes information from FEMA Guidance Document P-1019 that includes a checklist of steps facility managers can take before, during and after disasters to minimize the risk of an emergency power system failure. The guidance material also includes a spare parts inventory and fuel consumption checklist that facility managers can use to stay on top of fuel supply and help ensure that sufficient generator supplies and consumables are on hand at a facility at all times.