Before the HTM community goes off of the electrical deep end and starts to indiscriminately remove relocatable power taps (aka power or outlet strips) from its patient-care areas, we should first be strongly encouraged to revisit, relearn, and then apply some basic principles associated with alternating current (AC) circuit analysis and electrical power distribution systems.
Then, let these principles–and the immutable laws upon which they are based–be our guide, rather than the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) or any other agency that attempts to claim electrical dominion over our healthcare environments. The proliferation of medical devices requiring access to AC line power has made the use of outlet strips a simple and practical necessity. Properly designed, specified, used, and monitored, outlet strips offer an intrinsically safe, practical, and most cost-effective alternative to adding multiple wall outlets.
Electrical surge protection is also an added benefit provided by many of these strips. Rather than force the removal of these essential accessories, let’s focus our attention on simply applying some sound engineering principles to each facility’s electrical needs and then proceed accordingly–even if it means ignoring the mandates of CMS and others.
Unlike many of our important codes and standards that continue to be argued and evolve, the principles embodied in Ohm’s and Kirchhoff’s voltage and current laws and their judicious application should not be up for debate or left up to subjective regulation.
Larry Fennigkoh, PhD, PE, is a professor of biomedical engineering at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.