Karlovy Vary hospital staff battles two-hour blackout

A hospital in West Bohemia experienced a dramatic night this week when its generators gave way during a local blackout. Medical staff manually operated life-saving equipment for two long hours and managed to save all 300 patients. The local governor has now ordered a detailed report on why the hospital's emergency power supply failed.

Wednesday will be a night that the Karlovy Vary District Hospital will remember for quite a while. It all started when a local blackout cut off the power supply for much of the district. According to the west Bohemia power supply company, a marten was to blame. The carnivorous animal bit through a few cables that were part of the west Bohemian power grid and shut down the local electricity transmission system. But the hospital had its own emergency power supply that came on, only to suddenly shut down after forty-five short minutes. A second, smaller generator came on to supply power to the most important units in the hospital. It too failed after an hour, leaving the hospital in the dark and all life-saving equipment off.

"As you might imagine, such a situation is critical as we have numerous important medical equipment that needs electricity to work," says Roman Brazdil, head physician of the anaesthesiology-resuscitation unit. Had a patient been on the operating table, he would not have survived, he adds.

Of the 300 patients that were in the hospital at the time, four of them were in a critical condition. Doctors and nurses had to quickly go into action to operate resuscitation equipment and blood circulating machines manually.

According to Dr. Tereza Igazova, who was on duty in the Intensive Care Unit, there was little that doctors and nurses could do. Nurses went from one patient to the other monitoring their conditions and did all they could. The hospital is now assessing how much damage was caused by the blackout. Medicine, graft bone, and other important tissue stored in cooling machines can no longer be used.

Hospital management says all its generators are now working but it has yet to determine why its emergency power supply failed.