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Hospital Power Issues — Before, During, and After COVID-19

The calendar may say March, but it’s never too soon to start thinking about wildfire season — and public safety power shutoffs (PSPS). But in fact, when it comes planning for PSPS, Hospital Council’s and CHA’s teams have never stopped working on this issue as we continue to refine and improve our partnership with PG&E. For example, PSPS events continued at their near record pace in 2020, and we had PSPS events that lasted into December and even January of this year — a very concerning trend.

To bolster that partnership, last week CHA President & CEO Carmela Coyle and I had the opportunity to meet with Patti Poppe, PG&E’s new CEO, and discuss energy resiliency and the impact of PSPS on hospitals. PSPS took on an added sense of urgency for Hospital Council members in 2020 because of the challenges related to the treatment of patients with COVID-19. Our conversation confirmed that PG&E remains committed to supporting hospitals throughout 2021. The candid conversation included not only PSPS mitigation issues, but also the longer-term issue of energy resiliency as one that will be a common theme throughout the months to come.

Poppe made it clear from the beginning that she understands the nuances that hospitals operate under — and the fact that hospitals aren’t like any of their other customers. PG&E views itself as an “essential” business that provides power to critical, “essential” businesses like hospitals. They understand that while an elective or scheduled procedure might not mean necessary at that particular moment, if you’re a patient who has planned on a surgery for months, maybe even longer, and it gets postponed because the power goes out, there is a large ripple effect.

Following that meeting, the Hospital Council team began our joint meetings with PG&E to meet with our hospitals that have been significantly impacted by PSPS events. 2020 saw a dramatic improvement in PSPS mitigation with our most vulnerable hospitals, and we want to keep the momentum with these efforts while concurrently researching, planning, and implementing longer-term power resiliency issues in partnership with PG&E.

If you have any concerns or questions about how PSPS has or could impact your hospital, please contact me directly at bbucklew@hospitalcouncil.org.