Utilities Do Not Object to Hospitals’ Blackout Exemption Request
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison, the state's two largest utilities, said yesterday that they had no "object[ions]" to exempting California hospitals from rolling blackouts, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. At least nine hospitals were affected by blackouts this week, surprising most medical directors who thought that hospitals' classification as "essential services" made them exempt. Speaking at a Public Utilities Commission hearing to consider the hospitals' request for an "emergency" exemption order, officials and attorneys from the utilities said that they "were only following PUC regulations when they removed hospitals from the exempt list recently after learning they had generators to supply backup power," the Chronicle reports. Although the hospitals affected by the blackouts did not report any "serious problems," David Huard, a hospital attorney who argued for exempt status, said that the backup power is "not enough to guarantee optimal patient care during a blackout." Dan Cooley, a lawyer for PG&E, said the company was "not advocating one way or the other" on the issue of hospital exemption but said that many other entities, such as police stations and air traffic controllers, could follow the hospitals in seeking exemptions. In addition, the California Association of Health Facilities requested at the hearing that its 1,200 member nursing homes be granted exemptions. The PUC is not expected to rule on the hospitals' request before next week (Torassa, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.