Bird on wire causes blackout at MUHC
July 20, 2016
MONTREAL – A crow that was electrocuted on a nearby power line indirectly caused a two-hour blackout at the MUHC superhospital in early July, resulting in the cancellation of surgeries as the ventilation and other systems rebooted.
That and another recent incident have prompted MUHC officials to seek a review of how to prevent power interruptions at the superhospital.
And a few days later, a power flicker lasting a few milliseconds was enough to trigger the rebooting of the same systems at the superhospital, prompting officials at the McGill University Health Centre to seek a review of how to prevent similar problems in the future.
The power problems couldn’t have come at a worse time, the Montreal Gazette reported, as the MUHC has already postponed hundreds of elective surgeries this summer because of budget cuts.
“Obviously, there will be a debriefing that will be done to make the system better able to respond, should the same thing happen again,” said Ian Popple, a spokesperson for the MUHC.
Since the $1.3-billion superhospital opened on April 26, 2015, it has been plagued by thousands of glitches, including faulty wiring in the operating rooms.
Popple, however, was adamant that the blackout on July 7 had nothing to do with the facilities at the Glen site and said that the MUHC did the best it could under the circumstances. As soon as the power went out, the emergency generators kicked in, but they were unable to provide full power for two hours at the Glen site in Notre-Dame-deGrâce, Popple explained.
At the same time, the ventilation systems needed time to reboot, and during that time the humidity levels rose in the operating rooms.
As a result, the MUHC had to cancel an unspecified number of operations, Popple added.
Popple referred all technical matters about the blackout to Hydro-Québec. A spokesperson for the provincial utility suggested on Thursday that the MUHC could have kept the power running at full capacity at the Glen site last week.
Marc-Antoine Pouliot said two lines supply power to the Glen site. The two lines feed electricity to different parts of the superhospital.
But there is a third power line that could be used as a backup if needed, especially during a blackout, Pouliot noted. “The hospital itself could have made use of the third line, or the hospital could have made the request to Hydro-Québec to have us use our equipment to manoeuvre the third line,” he added.
Pouliot was unable to explain how a crow landing on a major power line could have triggered the July 7 blackout in the first place.