Power outage cripples Paik Hospital
Backup electricity generator fails to work
By Kim Rahn
A power outage early Friday morning at a general hospital in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province, left patients and medical staff waiting in the dark for more than one and a half hours.
The electricity went off at Inje University Paik Hospital in Ilsan at 2:45 a.m. apparently due to an error in the hospital’s power management system, according to the hospital and the Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO).
A backup electricity generator was supposed to take over provision of power supply immediately after such a blackout, but this did not occur, the hospital said. The electricity was restored at 4:25 a.m., after technicians from KEPCO arrived and managed to restore normal operations.
“We presume the power outage occurred due to a malfunction of the power controlling system. We are examining why our backup generator didn’t work,” a hospital official said, refusing to comment further on the incident.
No major damage occurred, but staff monitoring patients on life-support machinery, such as respirators, feared the possibility of such equipment shutting down. However, during the power outage, another backup generator installed to keep the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) up and running began operating, so respirators and other ICU equipment did not fail.
However, other facilities of the hospital, including wards for general patients, remained in the dark, according to the hospital, which has about 800 beds.
During the power outage, 119 rescuers had to transfer emergency patients to other hospitals in the adjacent area.
The greatest inconvenience of the power cut, was the cessation of the air conditioning system throughout the wards, source of considerable discomfort in the hot weather.
Citizens criticized the hospital for poorly managing its power facilities.
“How come such a general hospital doesn’t have an emergency power operation? It was nighttime fortunately, but what if it were during the day and some patients were undergoing surgery?” said a housewife, Choi, who recently had colon cancer surgery at another hospital in Seoul.
The death of a patient from a power cut occurred at another hospital earlier in February.
On Feb. 17, a 46-year-old renal failure patient was receiving hemodialysis treatment at a hospital in Incheon when the electricity supply to the hospital was cut. The hemodialysis instrument stopped, and he died of shock.
The wife of the deceased filed a complaint with the prosecution against the hospital, claiming it is responsible. But the hospital said doctors did everything they could when the power failed.
The hospital was a small-sized one, and therefore not obliged to have its own backup power generator.