Hospital focuses on power fix

A backup generator at Majuro hospital is housed in this building near the emergency room. It does not automatically turn on when there is a power outage. Photo: Isaac Marty.


A small fire on an electrical panel in the TB ward Monday caused power to go off for the facility at Majuro hospital. It confirms ongoing power issues that plague Majuro hospital’s electrical system — problems highlighted in an assessment of the electrical system conducted late last month by a US expert.

“The electrical survey couldn’t be more timely,” said Health Secretary Jack Niedenthal Tuesday this week following the brief TB ward outage.
He called the condition of Majuro hospital’s electrical system “an urgent situation” and is working to fast-track a revamp of the system.

Brian Dunn, the managing director of an industrial electrical firm known as IEG Charlotte, based in Virginia, was brought to Majuro by the Ministry of Health and Human Services to conduct an evaluation of the electrical system at the hospital, including back up generator capability.

He provided detailed information about the power system inside Majuro hospital.
He said the main power panel for the “old” portion of the hospital is “poor but functioning. The panel exterior and interior condition is not good and has multiple issues with degrading metal. Connections and terminations are in poor condition along with improper wire sizing with a given breaker rating. With no cover on the panel, this contributes to a quicker degrading of the panel and presents a safety issue.” He summed up the old hospital’s power situation: “All hardware is beyond life expectancy for usage. It is still functional, but the system is not a good option to be reliable or safe.”

A key problem for back up power when there is a power outage is that the standby generator outside the emergency room does not automatically turn on even though it has an automated transfer switch. In order to shift to back up power during an outage, the hospital needs MEC staff to start the generator and manually switch the “automatic” transfer switch to generator power — and the process must be repeated when regular power is restored, making it a cumbersome system for both the hospital and MEC.Dunn provided a list of options and recommendations for solving the electrical problems at the hospital.Niedenthal said he hoped to get all new electrical panels installed and the system updated as soon as possible.

Read more about this in the June 14, 2019 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.