Big questions about hospital generator failures

As New York begins to regroup after Sandy, one of the big questions is why backup generators at NYU Langone Medical Center failed. This isn't the first time hospital generators have failed at a NYC hospital in an emergency. Obviously much more needs to be written on this.


  1. When the mayor first announced that NYU medical center had lost power and that it's generators were working, the first thoughts were prayers.
  2. Mount Sinai was one of the hospitals receiving patients. It did a very good job keeping the public updated via its Twitter feed. (Contrast that to the fact that NYU Langone Medical Center's Twitter feed, at least the one I found.)
  3. Curtis Skinner, a former student of mine now at the New York World, looked at NYU's preparations for the storm and what they were doing in advance.
  4. The next question was how did this happen.
  5. It was not supposed to be this way. Mayor Bloomberg said in the run-up to the storm that hospitals had adequate generators. He repeated that last night in saying that NYU had assured him it was ready.
  6. The city has warned about this before. In this 2003 report, after a major blackout, the city said: "During the power outage, hospitals and nursing homes relied on emergency generators to maintain essential health care. However, a prominent trade association, which represents both public and private hospitals and continuing care facilities within the City and surrounding areas, reported that in some instances, despite prior testing according to applicable State and accreditation standards, generators malfunctioned, experiencing, for example, problems with switches and overheating. Further, only certain functional areas of hospitals are equipped with backup power. Hospitals that depend on steam were unable to sterilize equipment, and were forced to rely on other hospitals for assistance."
  7. Some questions for FEMA too. Listen to this conference call yesterday at the 1:30 minute mark: 
  8. Distressingly, this is not the first time patients have been put in harm's way when generators failed in NYC. The two links below include two articles from the past. Thanks to @dlloydlevine.
  9. We should have learned by now. My former colleague Sheri Fink wrote an amazing story about Memorial Hospital in New Orleans after Katrina. And the Institute of Medicine also looked at how to respond in disasters.
  10. Experts agree.
  11. This is the latest black eye for NYU Med Ctr.