Y2K: Statewide Drill Planned for Potential Millennium Glitches
A California hospital trade group is collaborating with the Emergency Medical Services Authority to coordinate a statewide Y2K readiness drill on Sept. 16. Despite California hospitals' current preparedness for situations of duress caused by earthquake, fire, riots and other disasters, the Los Angeles Times calls the impending exercise "unprecedented in scope." The voluntary drill -- slated to emulate "rolling electricity brownouts, telephone and generator failures, rowdy crowds celebrating ... heavy storms from an Alaskan cold front and a stream of injured people" -- will give more than 350 of the state's hospitals and supporting ambulance services insight into "what to expect when the prospect of millennium partying is layered on top of potential snafus in communications and hospital systems because of computer trouble." The test will also mark the first time officials receive data on hospital bed availability throughout the state, a function that can be leveraged to better meet patient care demands in future crises, including earthquakes and severe flu outbreaks. Participating hospitals have opted not to submit specific details of their Y2K preparations, due to liability concerns; however, self-assessments on Y2K readiness will be made by individual hospitals after the drill and will be submitted anonymously to the California Healthcare Association and emergency agencies. Dr. Bruce Haynes, director of EMS for the Orange County Health Care Agency, described providers as "reasonably confident but wary" about Y2K fallout. "Part of the [unknown] is the extent that we will be surprised by large numbers of people doing things they otherwise wouldn't do ... with the potential for large numbers of injuries," Haynes said, adding, "The drill will help give us more information about any weak spots in our planning." Fortunately, officials report, California's West Coast location will benefit hospitals on New Year's Eve because they can look to New York and Australia, nearly 18 hours ahead, as harbingers of potential problems (Warren, 9/7).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.