Navy Fleet Hospitals face Y2K risk

Year 2000 certification errors made by a Navy program office have led the Defense Department's inspector general to conclude that the Navy's 10 deployable fleet hospitals may contain medical devices that are not Year 2000-compliant.

In a report released today, the Pentagon's inspector general concluded that the Navy's Fleet Hospital Program Office "incorrectly certified that none of its biomedical devices included in Navy fleet hospitals would experience Year 2000-related performance problems" and failed to document how it went about certifying devices.

The report also concluded that the program office did not include in its certification items slated for but not yet deleted from the fleet hospital inventory and did not report its certification results to senior Navy managers.

"As a result," the report states, "fleet hospitals could be deployed with Year 2000-noncompliant biomedical devices." Navy fleet hospitals carry anesthesia devices, electrocardiagraphs and visual ultrasonic devices that may depend on computer date functions to operate properly.

The Navy maintains 10 fleet hospitals. Two are in a service status each year while the other eight are deployed around the world. Fleet hospitals are composed of deployable medical systems that can be erected during times of crisis—usually major conflicts—into 500-bed hospitals. Fleet hospital equipment is scheduled for maintenance every five years.

The Navy began the certification process of its fleet hospitals last year, but "the [Fleet Hospital Program Office] was unable to provide any documentation supporting its certification of the [fleet hospital] biomedical devices," the IG report stated.

The Fleet Hospital Program Office uses "build-to" and "as-built" reports to guide its maintenance of the hospital equipment. The build-to report shows equipment approved for use in the fleet hospitals. The as-built reports show equipment actually in each fleet hospital. As devices on the as-built list become outdated, they are removed from the build-to report, but they often remain in the hospitals until they are brought in for maintenance.

Even though outdated items on the as-built report remain in the hospitals, the program office "did not include deleted items in its certification process," the IG concluded. In fact, two EKGs included in the program office's certification were labeled as not being Year 2000-compliant on the manufacturer's World Wide Web site, according to the IG.

"There were 589 of the EKGs included in the 10 [fleet hospitals]," the report stated. "The EKGs were deleted items and had not been considered when the [program office] did its Y2K compliance certification."

The Navy's Office of the Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, concurred with the IG's conclusions and said that each fleet hospital commander will receive written notice detailing the devices that are not Year 2000-compliant as well as the appropriate workarounds to ensure their proper operation during the date change.

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