Bright Sparks

By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant
By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant

DURING a televised news conference on Monday night, the Prime Minister fielded questions from media representatives to clear the air on his first 100 days in office. Among the issues raised, Prime Minister Chastanet highlighted several delays in the commissioning of the Owen King EU Hospital, and noted that purchased equipment was meant to operate on 110 volts instead of the domestic 240 volt supply. Amidst the myriad of other issues arising, this one seemed to capture a small but relevant detail that struck a chord with the Prime Minister. He claimed that from his own experience, this mismatch was not a good idea. Incidentally, this view is supported by LUCELEC, which advises customers to “buy correctly rated equipment” when buying an appliance.

Should we assume that the entire hierarchy of the Ministry of Health was careful and well-advised during the planning, construction and outfitting of this new hospital? Or maybe, the PM is correct to question the planners, builders, and project managers involved in this project?

You should already know that computers originate in countries where the supply voltage may be different to that of the country of destination. Thankfully, computers have a power supply which is controlled by a tiny switch, to safely select the input voltage. Despite this feature, everyday people, including trained technicians, make the mistake of plugging a computer into the wrong supply voltage. The result is usually swift and sickening: a loud bang, a bright spark of light, and the dreaded smell of burnt electronics. The blown power supply must be replaced, accompanied by some expense, unexpected inconvenience, and sheepish embarrassment. In the past year, I have damaged two machines in that manner. It happens surprisingly easily, especially when busy or distracted.

It is probably a demanding task to acquire equipment to outfit a new hospital. Assuming no incompetence on the part of our civil servants, there may be justifiable reasons to account for the mismatched equipment, including:

* Cheaper cost;
* Lack of alternatives;
* Availability of spares.

A ready stock of spares would be needed to cope with the effects of mistakes, and blown components. Unfortunately, in our environment where equipment is not necessarily guaranteed to be properly maintained, one should question why equipment voltage mismatches were allowed to happen. Thankfully, computers are mostly commodity items that can be cheaply and readily swapped out. Since the same is not true for modern high-tech medical equipment, it is legitimate to raise concerns. Why complicate the equipment maintenance schedule, by introducing another mode of failure? Should we then expect to find others waiting in the wings?
To share your views, contact the author at: www.datashore.net or via The Voice.

About the Author
Dr. Lyndell St. Ville is an ICT Consultant based in Saint Lucia. His expertise includes systems analysis, design, and capacity building.

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