Secure power solutions and energy efficiency
In September 2016 a remarkably quick- thinking clinician in a South Australian hospital saved the life of a premature baby by using a manual ventilator to resume the baby’s oxygen supply. That supply was disrupted when widespread power outages plunged South Australia into darkness, forcing the hospital’s back-up generators to power essential medical services, such as intensive care units and maternity wards. Naturally, the back-up generator was being used, but a fuel pump powering it failed and some parts of the hospital then had to go to plan C – back-up battery power. Luckily for that baby and its family that vigilant staff member was on hand to save the day.
While it was an unfortunate and exceptional event beyond the norm, the reality is that current statistics on the climate and extreme weather events point to an unprecedented level of severe activity, meaning that such outages could well become much more frequent. A recent Bureau of Meteorology report noted that 2016 was the fourth hottest on record for Australia, rising to the warmest ever for some areas, including Sydney, Darwin, Brisbane and Hobart. This means that temperatures have risen to 0.87 degrees Celsius above average
and this has been accompanied by a string of extreme weather events, such as the nationwide heatwave that lasted from late February to mid-March in 2016, the widespread flooding down the east coast of the country in June and several significant storm events, such as the thunderstorms and tornado outbreak in South Australia in late September 2016 that caused widespread damage, tore down power lines and were responsible for the power outage that affected many health facilities across the state.
With such events only likely to increase in regularity, it is therefore vital that secure power solutions are put in place to support the stability and safety of healthcare facility infrastructure.
First and foremost, healthcare providers have a duty to supply the highest level of patient care possible (just as it says in the Hippocratic Oath), while also ensuring the reliable performance of a facility’s infrastructure – and performing both of these tasks at the best possible cost.
A basic element involved in meeting these objectives is secure power, or power reliability. For instance, when a 200-bed hospital experiences a power outage and its back-up generator solution fails, the cost is $1 million. Bump that up to $5 million for a 500-bed hospital.
Certain areas of a healthcare facility are more critical than others – with operating theatres, emergency departments and intensive care units at the top of the list, as they require constant power to stabilise and treat critically ill patients. But hospitals must also meet strict regulatory requirements regarding compliancy – creating challenges such as capital budget allocation, stakeholder acknowledgement and the need for continual testing and training.
It is not just a case of ensuring back-ups are in place and secure power solutions have been developed for all healthcare infrastructure, however. It is also important to understand how healthcare facilities can go one step further and actually achieve energy efficiency for improved performance and financial savings by implementing integrated systems and being mindful of energy efficiency. On average, 75 percent of a hospital’s energy usage stems from lighting, heating, cooling and ventilation, and hot water heating.
Building energy management systems can boost energy efficiency through such measures as:
- integrated variable speed drives
- power metering
- load management
- retro-commissioning and audits, and
- greenhouse gas monitoring.
Of equal importance is the management of a facility’s data stream. Current predictions expect that in coming years, 30 percent of global data centre space will be used for health- related data. Already, each year, patients in the hundreds of thousands have been found to have inaccurate or incomplete medical records, which can lead to misdiagnoses or incorrect or inappropriate treatment.
To protect patients, national and international standards exist to guide healthcare organisations in managing power solutions. Each country has its own installation standard, but they are mostly based on the International Electro-Technical Commission (IEC), which clearly defines critical applications within healthcare facilities. Electrical installation for buildings is standardised by IEC Bulletin 60364-7-710. The IEC defines three critical levels and the maximum duration times for power supply downtime.
In Australia and New Zealand, standards are defined by the Joint Standards Committee, which stipulates the continuity of service requirement for the three critical levels as ‘instantaneous power supply’, ‘vital’ and ‘delayed vital’.
To ensure that in a future extreme weather event and subsequent power outage no other premature babies are left owing their lives to the eagle eyes of an attendant healthcare giver, all healthcare facilities must be aware of the relevant local standards and ensure they are strictly adhered to.
Components of this article are taken from a white paper from Schneider Electric titled: How Secure Power Solutions Support Healthcare Infrastructure Stability and Safety’.