A view of the exterior of the emergency department at the Arrow Lakes Hospital. (File photo)

Nakusp hospital staff praised for response during emergency

Power generator failed on New Year’s, but human spirit didn’t

An official with Interior Health is praising staff and suppliers after a power generator failed at the Arrow Lakes Hospital early on New Year’s Day.

“Our staff was phenomenal in terms of the responses they had,” says Barbie Kalmakoff, IH’s director of clinical operations for the area that includes Arrow Lakes Hospital.

Kalmakoff says the emergency generator at the hospital kicked in about 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve in the midst of a heavy snowstorm that knocked trees into power lines. Power was out in Nakusp for more than 12 hours as a result.

But the emergency backup didn’t last.

“The generator failed about three in the morning,” she says. “It turned out a water pump wasn’t working properly, which caused the generator to run too hot, knocking it out.”

Kalmakoff says the generator is checked regularly and was tested just a week earlier. It’s also been in use occasionally as renovations are done to the emergency ward at the hospital.

The hospital’s maintenance man came in and briefly got the generator working again, but it didn’t last. The hospital would have to try to operate without power.

“Staff appeared on site knowing the power was out, without us having to call them in, to support the staff that was working,” she says. “So that’s really a phenomenal response.”

Even more remarkable, the one source for a new generator in the region answered the phone on New Year’s morning when the hospital rang. United Rental in Genelle had a spare generator, and were able to ship it up to the facility that day.

That allowed the power to get up and running again by about 3 p.m. the same day. Interior Health’s chief electrician, who was also on holidays, came in to effect the repairs.

Kalmakoff says patients weren’t affected by the power failure and plans to move long-term care or emergency room patients who needed care were cancelled once the new generator was secured.

“We didn’t lose heat, and we managed with some lighting in the system,” she says. “And luckily, there were no car accidents or significant events occurred, but they had plans in place to manage that as well.”

The extra staff who came in helped keep patients company and comfortable until power returned.

“It really speaks to the human spirit and I can’t thank people enough who helped us out with that,” she says. “The staff are just so ingenious how they did that, and just a lot of teamwork.”

Kalmakoff says the bill for the new generator hasn’t come in yet.

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