CA wildfires force 4 Kaiser Permanente hospitals to operate on generators: CEO

Anjalee Khemlani
Senior Reporter

A few of Kaiser Permanente hospitals are currently running on generators, CEO and chairman Bernard Tyson told Yahoo Finance on Thursday, as swaths of California’s power grid grapple with rolling blackouts.

An outbreak of wildfires in the state prompted Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) to shut down power in parts of California, which is affecting at least 500,000 consumers. Tyson said on Thursday that PG&E’s shut-offs are affecting at least four hospitals, but the system was prepared.

“This is when, as an individual who approves a lot of the expensive stuff it takes to do these kinds of things...this is where it really shows up of why it is so important,” Tyson said at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit.

New reality

The entrance to the newly constructed Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center hospital is shown in San Diego, California, U.S., April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Since wildfires and the impact on the grid have become more commonplace, the executive said the generators are tested regularly, and could easily run for days. In 2018, a similar emergency situation hampered Kaiser’s operations.

“Last year we had a fire in the Napa area, where the fire actually called us to evacuate one of our hospitals,” Tyson said — underscoring the gravity of the situation, and the need for PG&E to turn off sections of the grid.

“I get what we are trying to prevent, with the fire situations in California, and so this is a new reality that we’re all coping with,” he said.

PG&E’s move reflects how the company is moving preemptively, given that the fire could spread or become more severe, Tyson added.

“And so I get what they’re trying to do, which is prevention,” he said. “But it is also based, in addition, on the infrastructure that may not withstand some of the pressure that we’re talking about. And so this is more of a preventative measure.”

Hospitals, with the massive amount of resources used and their large carbon footprints, have become part of the conversation on how to mitigate the environmental impact of certain industries.

Tyson said Kaiser is helping to spearhead change, and aims to cut its carbon footprint by 2025. The hospital system is also moving to waste fewer materials and resources.

“We are paying close attention to issues in the healthcare system, and from everything from consumption of energy to waste materials, you name it,” the CEO said. “We’re rethinking the whole ecosystem that impacts Earth.”

Anjalee Khemlani is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @AnjKhem

Read the latest financial and business news from Yahoo Finance