Alarm Buttons Fail Because of Software Upset by New Year // 19-01-04

According to a report in the Swiss Radio today, several hospitals in Switzerland suffered a failure of the alarm buttons used by patients to call for help, after midnight of Dec.31/Jan.1. The cantonal hospitals of Aarau and Lucerne were mentioned in the report, but several (or dozens?) of other hospitals seem to have been affected.

Apparently, the reason was the computer system controlling the displays in the nurse's offices were not programmed correctly and drew overcurrent, when the year changed, breaking the power supplies.

First, WTF? People could not foresee the fact the year changes? Second, WTF?? Why is there a computer system controlling these buttons? Oh, of course I know the answers.

First, it was a simple bug, no worries! Except that it needed reprogramming, and the producer of the system did not have enough resources, therefore this required programming tools being passed from one hospital to the next, during several days.

And second, I assume the buttons are actually small transmitters connected to a bus, sending their address when pressed, so that one cable is sufficient for all buttons (not one for each). And I guess the displays also show the time, not just numbers or addresses of active buttons.

Anyway, I always feel bad when safety-related stuff is computerized, mainly for convenience or to save money (or copper, in this case).

The simpler a system, the safer it is!