Yesterday's blackouts that affected as many as 50 million people in the eastern United States and Canada challenged hospitals and other healthcare providers to maintain service.
New York hospitals and nursing homes immediately launched into emergency mode as the lights first dimmed about 4 p.m. yesterday. "We haven't been this challenged since 9-11," said Kenneth Raske, president and CEO of the Greater New York Hospital Association. "Just like 9-11, we are having all sorts of communication problems. Our phone system can't accept incoming calls, so they are being transferred to the (Office of Emergency Management) desk.
Institutions were "hanging in there," relying almost exclusively on their over-taxed diesel-powered generators to keep the lights on and medical equipment running, Raske reported. "Generators are drinking fuel at a huge rate," he said this afternoon, some 21 hours after the cascading power failure crippled a large swath of the Northeast.
Some hospitals in southeastern Michigan canceled elective surgeries and prepared to operate on emergency power through the weekend. Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, lost power at all four of its hospitals, although electricity was restored at its Bi-County Community Hospital in Warren, Mich., late Friday morning, system President and CEO Nancy Schlichting said. With municipal pumps inoperable, water was being trucked to the system's flagship in Detroit, which was operating near its normal capacity, she said. -- by Cinda Becker and Mary Chris Jaklevic