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Report that power outage at TJ hospital led to 5 COVID-19 patient deaths

Posted at 3:53 PM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-28 20:48:08-04

TIJUANA, Mexico (KGTV) - According to a Tijuana newspaper, a power outage over the course of last weekend at the Tijuana General Hospital led to the deaths of five patients who were on ventilators. Officials, though, deny it.

On Wednesday, ABC10 News spoke media partner Televisa's anchor Estephania Báez about the report from newspaper Zeta. “What they got was interviews with doctors but they remained [anonymous]," said Báez.

She said that state authorities and the hospital admitted there were five deaths but denied that they were caused by the outage and claimed that a backup generator kicked in but only at low voltage.

Televisa is reporting that copper wire thieves are suspected of causing the loss of power. “The thieves that [steal] the copper from homes decided to do it to the General Hospital and I can’t even think about why they did this with knowing that patients are connected to ventilators,” added Báez.

Tijuana's General Hospital has been hit hard since the start of the pandemic. There have been reports of a lack of beds and equipment. More recently, Báez said, there have been problems related to accessing cancer care. “They even had lots of families that have children with cancer protesting outside the hospital because they couldn't even get their treatment done,” she added.

In part of a statement to ABC10 News, the hospital wrote that it categorically denies that the outage resulted in the death of any of its patients.

ABC10 News reached out to the Joint Commission which oversees safety standards for hospitals in the United States to ask about power outage protocols. We were sent the following.

"The Joint Commission Emergency Management Standard EM.02.02.09 EP 5 requires that hospitals identify an alternative means for providing "fuel required for building operations, generators, and essential transport services that the hospital would typically provide." The facility should assess how it would be affected if outside emergency support could not be obtained for 96 hours. This does not mean that they need to have 96 hours’ worth of fuel on site. The plan could include memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with suppliers to replenish fuel as needed during the emergency period. Additionally, the plan could be to operate without normal branch of power to reduce fuel consumption, to extend run-time of the available fuel. If the generator is used as the backup power source for the life safety branch of the electrical system, the facility should have enough fuel to run the generator for a least 1-1/2 hours for as long as the building is occupied."