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Blackouts Anger Dallas Hospitals

By Jay Gormley, CBS 11 News
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Parkland

CBS DFW (con't)

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – They are the critical care safety nets for North Texas: Parkland, Baylor, Methodist and Presbyterian Dallas. So, during Wednesday’s rolling outages, why was the power cut to these vital hospitals?

Jorie Klein runs disaster management for Parkland Hospital, and is still upset that her hospital was included in the rotating outages. “We were not happy,” she said. “You can’t just go down for 15 minutes and come back up. It really does disrupt hospital care.”

Because of the sensitive life-saving equipment, hospitals are considered “critical care facilities,” and supposed to be exempt from rolling blackouts. That’s exactly what Presbyterian Dallas was led to believe. “We were of the understanding that hospitals and other critical-care providers were not supposed to be affected by planned outages,” said hospital spokesman Stephen O’Brien.

Oncor admits that a mistake was made. “We are sorry this happened. We are in a process of refining our processes, so in the unlikely event of future mandates for rotating outages, hospitals will be excluded,” said Oncor spokeswoman Catherine Cuellar.

Although Oncor is taking responsibility, the company is asking for some understanding. Oncor said that the state-mandated ERCOT blackouts were outages of historic proportion. “We were following protocols that have never been tested to this degree. This was the widest number of rotating outages for the longest period of time, ever!” said Cuellar.

Klein said that there has to be a better way to assure hospitals that there won’t be a next time. “I do believe that if there’s not legislation and regulations to protect hospitals, there should be,” Klein said. “We are a trauma center and a safety net for our community.”

Klein said that all of the elective surgeries the hospital had set for Thursday are being re-scheduled. Parkland Hospital officials will continue to evaluate the situation, but expect things to be back to normal on Friday.

All of the hospitals that lost power had back-up generators that kicked in minutes later. But that still did not stop computers and medical equipment from being disrupted, and ultimately causing great concern among hospital administrators.

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