“300-year” flood cripples texas medical center
June 8, a Friday night, and as people settled down to watch Leno or Letterman, Tropical Storm Allison began pouring rain onto Houston. Over the next few hours, 8.5 inches of rain fell, running off into Brays Bayou, which could not handle the heaviest downpour ever recorded in the city. Trapped in Harris Gully, a network of underground pipes that drained the area of the Texas Medical Center, water began to rise around the largest concentration of healthcare facilities in the United States. It quickly filled garages and connecting tunnels. Like bulkheads in a sinking ocean liner, the weight of the water pressed against fire doors until one by one, each gave way, unleashing a torrent through hallways and into rooms containing clinical labs, research facilities, materials storage, kitchens, cardiac cath labs and engineering shops. It reached electrical utility connections at 1:40 a.m. and the lights went out.

Memorial Hermann Hospital, The Methodist Hospital, Texas Children’s, St. Luke’s Episcopal and other facilities in the Medical Center lost power. Emergency generators situated on higher floors were able to operate, including those at Hermann, but at 5:00 a.m. water filled Hermann’s basement and the crossover gear was destroyed, cutting emergency power. With water now 6 inches from the ground floor ceiling, the decision was made to evacuate all 540 patients.

Med-gas fatalities prompt FDA advisory
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a Public Health Advisory on July 20, alerting healthcare facilities to dangers associated with bulk medical gas supplies.

“Over the past four years, FDA has received reports of seven deaths and 15 injuries associated with medical gas misconnections that occurred in acute care and nursing home settings,” said the advisory.

“In the cases we have reviewed, deaths and injuries occurred when two errors were made in sequence,” the FDA explained. “First, a cryogenic vessel containing another gas was mistakenly identified as containing oxygen. Then, the gas-specific connector on this cryogenic vessel was changed or misadapted so that it could deliver the wrong gas to an oxygen-delivery system.”

Asset manager says costs up 52 percent
USCS Equipment Technology Solutions (Brookfield, Wisc.) announced in July that an analysis of it’s maintenance cost data base indicated hourly service rates and parts prices for ultrasound, laboratory and nuclear medicine increased over 52 percent during the past five years.

The company’s release cited increased rates for three unidentified ultrasound service suppliers that ranged from 15 to 46 percent, with an average increase of 33 percent over five years. Selected parts increased over 200 percent, including a “leading PCB” that went “from $7,601 to $27,830.”

Swift Certification

imageOur surfing squiggler’s memory is not what it used to be, so when it came time to research a certain medical product to see if it was certified safe, the assessment process slowed to a crawl. All those certification marks plastered on the back of a device are a handful to the handless wonder.

d01b.jpg (6291 bytes)But the clever folks at the certification firm TUV Rheinland put it all into one site, www.tuv.com.  The Worm found listing for scads of certified products, all ripe for searching. A single-source for updated certification information, TUV.com includes certification traceability, supplier links and detailed explanations of the various certifications. Products can be searched by manufacturer name, certificate number or product name. Mind you, our friendly fishbait needed patience at times, as the site’s server could be klunky.

And the best part for our certifiably-cheap earthmuncher, there is no charge to integrate non-TUV certifications with the service, as long as you can do it before Jan. 1, 2002. If our slither had legs, it would be time for dancing.


You Gotta Love It!

d01c.jpg (10348 bytes)The answer to mouse gook!
Tom Bergman, Ph.D., an Oklahoma educator, consultant and “Professor of Entrpreneurship,” got fed up with mice skipping across his computer in a jerky and erratic manner. The answer? No, not poison, a trap or a hungry tomcat. Bergman invented the Happy Mouse.

The two-sided tool is used to pop open the hatch that holds the track ball inside the mouse and scrape accumulated gook off it’s tiny mouse rollers.

Frequency coordination for telemetry begins
The American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) of the American Hospital Association announced July 17, during it’s annual meeting, that it hired Comsearch of Ashburn, Va., to administer the frequency coordination program for the new Wireless Medical Telemetry Service.

The WMTS bands do not require a license from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but facilities must register devices with a private frequency coordinator and request a survey. In February, ASHE beat out two competitors to win a five-year term as coordinator. ASHE promised the FCC that it would team up with an experienced communications firm, operate the program on a not-for-profit basis and would not discriminate against facilities that are not AHA members.

Wireless protocol insecure
Cryptologist Ian Goldberg demonstrated fundamental security flaws in the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) protocol used to encrypt IEEE 802.11 wireless data communications in a session delivered to attendees of the Black Hat Briefings, a computer security conference conducted just before the opening of July’s notorious DEF CON hacker convention in Las Vegas.

Proclamations advance biomed recognition weeks
The governors of five states announced weeks to honor people working in healthcare technology service and support. Although they carry differing titles and dates, these weeks offer a common opportunity to raise the public profile of this industry.

In Texas,“Biomedical Equipment Technicians Week” will be celebrated Aug. 12-18.

Radiopharmacists buy Inovision and Victoreen
They liked Inovision products so much, they bought the company.

Syncor International Corp. (Woodland Hills, Calif.) announced July 24 that it will buy Ohio-based Inovision Radiation Measurements, LLC and its affiliate, Victoreen, LLC. The value of the deal was not revealed.

In addition to test equipment for evaluating and maintaining imaging systems, Inovision sells products that monitor radiation levels in laboratories and medical centers where nuclear medicine is practiced. Syncor’s niche is nuclear pharmacy services and radiotherapy products.

McDonough starts with NAI purchase
By acquiring X-ray tube and imaging system supplier North American Imaging Inc. (Camarillo, Calif.) and adding its 60 employees, McDonough Medical Products Corp. of Deerfield, Ill. increased its workforce to 62.

DC DiagnostiCare Inc. sold NAI, including NAI Technology Products Division which manufactures interface devices, for approximately $6.2 million in cash. Current NAI management will stay in place under the new ownership.

Philips to buy Marconi Medical for $1.1 billion
Royal Philips Electronics continued its worldwide medical technology expansion on July 4, and put decades of rumors to rest, when it announced it will acquire Marconi plc’s Medical Systems business — once known as Picker — for $1.1 billion.

The proposed transaction includes a five-year technology supply partnership, committing Philips to purchase up to $150 million of Marconi communications products.

d01d.jpg (5971 bytes)A Rested Walsh Returns
After a one-year sabbatical, Steve Walsh resumed VP of sales responsibilities for Huestis Medical at it’s Huestis ARI remanufacturing facility in Taunton, Mass.

Walsh was a co-founder of ARI and continued to head-up sales after it was acquired by Huestis in 1994. He also served as the Ethics Committee chairman of the International Association of Medical Equipment Remarketers and Servicers (IAMERS). Walsh was a management consultant for Huestis during the last 12 months.

Data Critical/vitalcom buy sends GE wireless
GE Medical Systems proposed to buy Data Critical, a manufacturer of wireless devices for healthcare applications, on July 19. In June, Data Critical bought VitalCom, a long-standing manufacturer of telemetry and patient monitoring technology, and it’s been consolidating operations at VitalCom’s Tustin, Calif., facility. Estimates of outstanding Data Critical shares suggest GE will pay approximately $50 million in cash for the deal.

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