Power outage zaps VA hospital

An Xcel Energy crew replaces a 30-year-old electrical main Friday to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Grand Junction. The hospital lost power after two backup generators quit, requiring some patients to be moved to other hospitals in the valley. Power to the emergency room and clinics was restored Friday morning, and the hospital was expected to be back to full operation today.

Six patients were transferred from the Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center after a power outage early Friday morning.

The hospital had been using backup generators for power since Thursday as Xcel workers were replacing two outdated, main electrical lines. Early Friday, one backup generator failed, then that generator’s backup failed.

The six transferred patients were taken either to Community Hospital or St. Mary’s Hospital.

Any patients who were on ventilators or thought to need one in the near future were transferred from the VA hospital before Thursday, in advance of the planned upgrades, VA Medical Center spokesman Paul Sweeney said.

Power was restored later Friday morning to the VA hospital’s emergency room, its ambulatory surgery unit and its medical clinic. Some major surgeries were postponed.

Power was limited Friday in other parts of the 64-bed hospital, including administration areas and the hospital’s outbuildings.

Power is expected to be completely restored by today.

“We are treating this as a learning experience,” Sweeney said. “This had an impact, but it’s not what it could have been. We really think the lessons we learned today are going to save lives.”

Workers were in the midst of changing out a 30-year-old electrical line when the outage occurred. Officials hope the new line will last another 30 years.

Further construction projects are in store for the medical center, which was built in 1947.

On Monday, the hospital will begin upgrading to better withstand the effects of a potential earthquake. The hospital’s location, 2121 North Ave., had previously been thought to be in an area that is at low risk for earthquakes, but that threat has been reassessed as a medium risk, Sweeney said.

Construction will include adding columns and reinforcements to the hospital’s east and west wings.

Later this year, workers will begin construction of a 30,000-square-foot expansion, adding a third floor on the building’s north end. That will house the hospital’s consolidated surgery center and patient care areas.

The hospital’s fifth floor will be gutted and remodeled to meet new safety standards for the mental health ward.

Solar panels will be added to Building 37. Lighting in the building is being converted to LED lights, which use less electricity than standard light bulbs.

“We’re looking at long-term, green projects,” Sweeney said.


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