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Congressman Bruce Poliquin

Representing the 2nd District of Maine

Answers Needed After Togus Reportedly Lost Power Yesterday, Says Rep. Poliquin

October 31, 2017
Press Release
Poliquin questions if Togus Veterans Medical Center required emergency services from outside the facility, prompting the Congressman to call for answers about the facility’s readiness

WASHINGTON – After hearing reports that Togus Veterans Administration Medical Center lost power and needed emergency power to be brought in from outside the facility, Congressman Bruce Poliquin (ME-02), a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, is calling for answers.

 

Congressman Poliquin sent an urgent letter today to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin calling for answers to the following questions:

 

  • Did Togus call for outside backup power yesterday?
  • If so, was there a plan in place for emergency power on site, and if so, why did that plan not succeed?
  • Does Togus have adequate backup power?
  • Is that power functional?
  • Was the backup power onsite properly fueled?
  • Is onsite backup power properly, and regularly, tested?
  • If power was brought in from outside the facility did it arrive fast enough and did you experience patient complications prior to its arrival?

 

In his letter, the Congressman also says, “[…]Togus is Maine’s only VA hospital.  This VA hospital serves thousands of Veterans from minor routine exams, to chronic health issues, and even serious life threatening conditions. There are hundreds of Maine Veterans at Togus on any given day, so a loss of power could have a significant impact on care.

 

“Although yesterday’s storms in Maine and New England wreaked havoc on the entire region and left hundreds of thousands of Mainers without power, it is unacceptable that a backup power plan at Togus would fail, if that indeed happened.”

 

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Full text of the letter is below:

 

October 31, 2017

 

The Honorable David J. Shulkin

Secretary of Veterans Affairs

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20420

 

Dear Secretary Shulkin,

 

I am concerned about reports that Togus Veterans Administration Medical Center in Augusta, Maine not only lost power yesterday, but that, potentially, its backup power plan also failed.  Reports seem to indicate emergency power was brought in from outside the facility.

 

As you know, Togus is Maine’s only VA hospital.  This VA hospital serves thousands of Veterans from minor routine exams, to chronic health issues, and even serious life threatening conditions. There are hundreds of Maine Veterans at Togus on any given day, so a loss of power could have a significant impact on care.

 

Although yesterday’s storms in Maine and New England wreaked havoc on the entire region and left hundreds of thousands of Mainers without power, it is unacceptable that a backup power plan at Togus would fail, if that indeed happened.

 

I write today to inquire if indeed Togus called for outside backup power yesterday.  If so, was there a plan in place for emergency power on site, and if so, why did that plan not succeed?  Does Togus have adequate backup power?  Is that power functional?  Was the backup power onsite properly fueled?  Is onsite backup power properly, and regularly, tested?  If power was brought in from outside the facility, did it arrive fast enough and did you experience patient complications prior to its arrival?

 

As a Member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, and a Maine citizen and Congressman who cares deeply for the welfare of our Veterans, I believe it is important to find solutions to this problem, if it took place, so it does not happen again.

 

Thank you for your immediate attention to this, and I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Sincerely,

 

Bruce Poliquin

Member of Congress

 

Cc: Ryan Lilly, Director, Maine VA Healthcare System

 

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UPDATE: Staff members of Congressman Bruce Poliquin’s office received an initial response today from an official at the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs to the Congressman’s questions about Togus’ request for additional emergency energy services from outside the facility. The VA official indicated the following:

 

Togus lost regular power around 5 a.m. yesterday, at which point the facility’s backup generators immediately kicked in. Around noon yesterday, one of those generators reported a fault and as a result a Togus employee contacted both the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and the Maine National Guard with an urgent request for two generators to be sent to the facility. After further contact, the Maine Army National Guard deployed a generator truck and operator to the Togus VA facility. This backup generator was not used, but remained on site in case it was needed. Full power was later restored at Togus.

 

Today, MEMA Acting Director Peter Rogers explained at a press conference that Togus was the only hospital in the State of Maine to request a generator.

 

Press Secretary Brendan Conley said, “The Congressman remains committed to making sure the facilities that serve our Veterans are always operating at their highest performance and he looks forward to a full reply from his letter. He stands ready to assist Togus anyway he can to ensure our Veterans’ care, health and wellbeing are always put first.”

 

Congressman Poliquin looks forward to a full letter response from the VA on the matter and on what caused the fault in the generator at Togus.

 

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