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Experts offer tips for Y2K-contingency planning
What’s the most important step in contingency planning for year 2000 (Y2K) problems? Discuss scheduling, advises Steven Wexler, MS, chief VA biomedical engineer for the Veteran’s Health Administration of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) in Washington, DC.
"We’re recommending to our people that any elective surgeries be postponed until you’re sure the OR is functioning properly," Wexler says.
A Y2K expert at Medical College of Georgia in Augusta also recommends a conservative approach. "If I were king for a day, I’d make sure — absolutely certain — that everything in the OR has passed the litmus test, been checked out, and suggest surgeries not be started until a week after," says Dwain Shaw, director of information services and the year 2000 project director for the Medical College.
"We think we’re in great shape, but we don’t want surprises," Shaw emphasizes. "I would not tempt fate by having any type of surgery scheduled the first day after everyone is back."
In addition, Wexler recommends that staff report to the facility on Jan. 1, even if they normally are off. Operate devices and utilities to ensure they’re working properly, including lights and ventilation, he suggests. "If they’re not working, look at your contingency plans and ask, What is my backup?’" he says. (See excerpt of Execution Phase Timeline, p. 58.)
Consider contracting with another program that is running, particularly if your program experiences a lot of failures, he suggests.
To develop a contingency plan, consider these steps from the VA:
The VA has developed preliminary templates for core businesses that address mission-critical systems, potential problems, contacts, preparations, and information on what to do if there is an interruption in operations. However, the templates don’t necessarily fit everyone, Wexler warns. "We don’t want people to take them out of the book and hang on the wall," he says.
Instead, fill out a blank template to meet your needs, he advises.
"Stockpiling could create a shortage," Wexler explains. Instead, he suggests, have alternative supplies at ready disposal in the event a primary supplier can’t deliver on a regular schedule. (See VA recommended timetable, p. 59.)
Testing your electrical system is critical, he notes. VA hospitals have been instructed to run on their own generator power for eight hours, he says. One facility determined that its pager system wasn’t hooked up to the emergency electrical system.
Typically, most parts of buildings aren’t supported by an emergency electrical system by design. For example, not every elevator is usually carried by the generator. "So the staff start to get an education," he says. "Now the staff know that only this elevator will be working and only half the lights."
Peer review your template, and post it on the wall, Wexler says. Your Y2K-contingency planning is complete. (For more information on Y2K preparation, see Same-Day Surgery, March 1999, p. 29, October 1998, p. 131, and September 1998, p. 113.)