Hospital Hams ? Did the Sky Fall ?

Discussion in 'Discussions, Opinions & Editorials' started by NN4RH, Dec 1, 2012.

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  1. NN4RH

    NN4RH Subscriber QRZ Page

    It's been over two years now since the FCC amended Part 97 to make it OK for certain hams to use amateur radio as part of their job.

    Prior to that, it was prohibited to use ham radio where there was a "pecuniary interest"; and that includes hams that work for places like hospitals, the rules prohibiting ham radio being part of their job.

    Use of amateur radio during an actual emergency was already allowed anyway. So the real regulatory issue was participation in drills and excercise, as part of their job.

    This was Proceeding WP 10-72 back in 2010. It was a HUGE controversy at the time, and some of us, including myself, felt that allowing this change would lead to the demise of ham radio as a hobby activity as we know it, that the "whacker" crowd would take over the hobby, that ham radio would be used by businesses of all descriptions as a cheap alternative to the proper Part 90 systems, and all sorts of other dire consequences and abuse of amateur radio.

    What the FCC ended up doing is adding the following paragraph to Part 97:

    ยง 97.113 Prohibited transmissions.
    (a) * * *
    (3) Communications in which the station licensee or control operator has a pecuniary interest, including
    communications on behalf of an employer, with the following exceptions:
    (i) A station licensee or control station operator may participate on behalf of an employer in an
    emergency preparedness or disaster readiness test or drill, limited to the duration and scope of such test or
    drill, and operational testing immediately prior to such test or drill. Tests or drills that are not
    government-sponsored are limited to a total time of one hour per week; except that no more than twice in
    any calendar year, they may be conducted for a period not to exceed 72 hours.

    So. After the Report and Order in July 2010, we never heard any more about it. Are there such drills going on? Any known abuse of the rules? Or did the hospitals and others lose interest in ham radio?
  2. W0AAT

    W0AAT XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Every hospital and clinic in my area has a radio. Many check into a weekly net.
  3. KC5SAS

    KC5SAS Ham Member QRZ Page

    I work for a 2 hospital system in Baton Rouge. I have been told that there are DStar radios at each o our houspitals but in the 5 years that I have worked there I have never seen the radios or heard of them being used.
  4. KC8VWM

    KC8VWM Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Can't speak for the whacker doodle wanna be crowd..., but isn't this all supposed to be intended for professional hospital staff, like experienced degreed nurses such as myself?

    Clearly the whacker doodles don't know things such as medical terminology, hospital protocals and such in order to effectively communicate with other hospital and EMS personnel, so how can this possibly be intended for them in the first place, if they have no idea what's going on inside a hospital anyways?

    ...Have these whacker doodles ever worked inside a hospital before? If not they will have no clue whats going on inside of one, regardless of any part 97 regulations or communication authority suggesting otherwise.

    Kind of like giving people authority to build cars at GM, who have never had any experience doing that sort of thing before. Which bolt is supposed to fit inside the required component hole exactly sort of thing? ...How are people on the "outside" with no previous experience supposed to know that sort of thing exactly?

    It's one thing to understand how a radio works, and a completely another thing to understand how a hospital system operates on various levels with one another. I don't quite understand how that could even work.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2012
  5. KR2C

    KR2C Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    The only adverse thing that I have seen is that many hospitals in my area seemed to put up repeaters. This takes away from a pair that could otherwise be used by a "regular" ham, and not by a business. However, they did make the repeaters open systems and are available for general use.
  6. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    We've made an effort to get ham radio into the hospitals in this region, and I think it's worked. In our recent SET, we had most of the area hospitals covered. Many hospitals have 2 meter antennas in place. A couple of the biggest ones host ham repeaters that are open for everyone to use - and are operated by the local radio clubs.

    For the most part, hams aren't going to be involved in sending traffic that involves medical terminology - it's going to be logistics, "I need XX number of beds, can you handle it?". The reason we do drills is so that both the hams and the hospital staff have some idea what to expect. Some hospitals do expect all ham volunteers to go through hospital oriented training courses, and many hams in metro areas do. But, in a county with only a handful of hams, that's a bit too much to expect.
  7. W7ND

    W7ND Ham Member QRZ Page

    Supposedly, we just got amateur radio equipment install in our hospital as part of a statewide grant. I am the only licensed amateur who works here, and I doubt anyone would get licensed to run it. We could have local amateurs volunteer to run it if they took yearly HIPAA training. I guess we have to find where they put the damn radio first, because nobody knows where it's at!
  8. W7ND

    W7ND Ham Member QRZ Page

    Do the people who work Skywarn or hurricane/severe weather nets have to be meteorologist? You don't need any training, other than yearly HIPAA refreshers in order to pass traffic. I'd rather have the hams in my community that want to help than try to convince some of my disinterested coworkers to get licensed who will never use it.
  9. G0GQK

    G0GQK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Rather than buy hospitals amateur radio equipment if hospitals wish to communicate with each other could they not use a telephone ? Every hospital I've entered in Britain has a regiment of computers, so surely those could be used. Hospitals in the UK don't have amateur radio shacks to communicate with other hospitals, why would they need 2 metre equipment ?

    Mel G0GQK
  10. K9ASE

    K9ASE Ham Member QRZ Page

    Do you remember what happened to Joplin, Mo.? It's in case a city has it's normal communication infrastructure damaged to the point where service is interrupted.
  11. WA3VJB

    WA3VJB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Some of the Comments filed into the FCC's database for this proceeding are worth re-reading. The medical industry filed in favor of this change because it could help them meet accreditation standards set by at least two non-government associations. Part of that certification involves the level of preparedness in a hospital's communications infrastructure, and that's where Amateur Radio was promoted by the ARRL as a "when all else fails" mode of communicating.

    Unintended consequences or not, we may never actually see hospital ham stations on the air. It might be adequate, for the sake of this accreditation, to show documentary evidence of having established a station. Any training or licensing efforts among paid staff at these institutions could be a bonus, but perhaps not needed for these accreditation groups.

    There is also the non-medical industry to consider. Wasn't it a defense contractor that filed among the Comments that Amateur Radio could supplement the communications infrastructure in their complex during an emergency?

    Here too, we may never know when such stations could appear on our airwaves, nor whether any operational knowledge has been passed along to staffers designated to use these stations.

    I thought perhaps we would see some stations come out of the woodwork during "Sandy" in the Northeast, but I haven't seen such reports anywhere, including among hospitals in New York City that were inundated by the storm.
  12. KE7ZOE

    KE7ZOE Ham Member QRZ Page

    A lot of the traffic here is these "emergency nets" on "emergency repeaters" on publicly owned towers. Usually various agency designated personel checking into scheduled nets as part of there job to coordinate with other agencies on Ham bands. The large county repeater/tower near me is dead all week except for these nets. No actual Ham traffic. Any Ham who uses it gets a quick scolding from a local whacker that this is an "emergency" repeater not for "rag chewing". Then it sits quiet the rest of the time.Seems to me like this is no longer an amateur repeater or frequency. Since it's the only one I can hit from my house, with a HT, there really isn't a local "amateur" repeater for me to use.I live on the Canadian border. Virtually all the US repeaters I hear all this type, no amateurs. Canadians traffic is only amateurs talking to amateurs. Amateurs here are all simplex direct, no repeater.
  13. WA4OTD

    WA4OTD XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    This has been my fear and why I did not like this rule change. The hospitals would take over 2M and 70CM. They need to keep their repeaters open and be good neighbors. I have never liked any of the truly closed repeaters. I just think these frequencies are for all hams, if there is a time when they have an emergency net they can use the repeater, if there is an emergency that has priority.

    Generally, now, these bands are used so little there isn't a congestion problem like on HF often. It is the other extreme, if these frequencies are not active at some point someone can say 2 meters is not being utilized by ham operators and try to take our spectrum.

  14. W9OE

    W9OE Ham Member QRZ Page

    Each and every time someone proposes a change, any change, they all start crying it is the end to ham radio. The "no code" they screamed for years and are still crying. I, myself never thought it would happen. Did it kill the hobby? No it had just the opposite effect, our numbers increased. Someone needs an 1/8 inch of radio spectrum. Did it kill the hobby? No. Ecom, did it kill the hobby? No it had just the opposite effect, our numbers increased.

    Like may other things in life, ham radio continues to evolve. Some including the "grumpy old men" need to get out of the cave more often. Some like CW, some don't. Some like phone some don't. Some like Ecom. some don't. That's life!

    Get over it or take up basket weaving or something. Time to stop all the crying, and just enjoy the part of the hobby you enjoy. Let everyone else enjoy what ever it is they enjoy.

    Amateur radio is alive and well. The equipment manufacturers are still in business and making money or they would not be there. The sky is still out of reach for most of us and personally I do not see that changing any time soon.
  15. N4XTS

    N4XTS Ham Member QRZ Page

    The hospital where I work has an HF through UHF station, a local group of guys come out to test it. The department I work in (communicative services) has several long time licensed hams, including our supervisor, who herself has had a ham license for over 12 years, myself over 25.

    I think the idea that works best for us is to use internal people first, with hams from the community supporting us. As others have said, most outsiders have little ideas what goes on internally, and while it's great some fellow hams want to "help out", the best place IMO is in a support role on the outside at shelters, EOC's, etc where they can receive the traffic sent by staff.

    In a real "when all else fails" emergency where amateur radio would actually be utilized, such as the Joplin tornado, there will be little time for an outside ham to come in and man the station. Chances are he/she will be too busy taking care of their own affairs as well. It will be a hospital employee who would need to use said amateur radio station, as did happen in Joplin (from what I understand it was a non-ham who worked in information technology who happened to be there, but knew enough to use the equipment). This is why local hams who have a desire to help should reach out and make sure hospital staff knows about the equipment, identify who on staff may be hams, and if there aren't any, get them licensed.

    The equipment alone is only a resource is someone is there at the right time with the right TRAINING to utilize it. I think this was the intent of the clarification. As a hospital employee, we have no desire to put our daily comms over ham radio, in fact, radio itself is used very little other than EMS-hospital, security and some support staff workers. Most of what we do is by phone and computers like anywhere else. We have contingency plans using other commercial services including LMR in place should these systems fail, but having hams on staff who are already there and would know how to use the radio setup if the SHTF is more valuable than any outside help. Not trying to downplay those who want to come in and run the station, but be real about it.

    If that "day" comes, will you be able to go take off for the local hospital to man a station? Most likely you'll have your hands full with your own affairs. In the meantime, we need to be ready to use whatever resources are left to keep things going. I think it's a prudent idea to have people on any staff who are trained and certified to use those resources.
  16. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I see some references to Joplin here, and a lot of assumptions that really didn't pan out there, based on the presentations I've seen. I attended a ham/hospital conference in the Twin Cities last year, where we had the Communications Director for the Joplin hospital that was destroyed, and the local ARES EC, as guest speakers.

    First of all, when the tornado hit the hospital, the first thing to go was the ham antenna on the roof, taking the primary repeater out. The next thing to go was the emergency generators that were actually sucked out of the building.

    When the local ARES people arrived, they were initially turned away, because there had been no preparation for using them. The local EC and other officials rapidly came up with a way to clear ARES volunteers into the scene by staging them in a particular location, and having them escorted in by hospital staff. Over the next several days, the hams established communication between the destroyed hospital and neighboring hospitals, as well as with the state capitol in Springfield. Over the ensuing weeks, hams from all over the region (including some from Minnesota) went to Joplin and were put to work providing communications for the other non-governmental relief agencies working the disaster.

    Our opportunity to assist with hospital communications in a Joplin scale disaster is mostly in the first 24 hours. After that, hams will likely be needed to assist other volunteer groups that lack their own radio communications.
  17. WB7OXP

    WB7OXP Ham Member QRZ Page

    xts and a few others;

    a few thoughts on your comment. i am just back to ham after a long break, but i have some experience with facilities disaster management.

    first, it is great that you all probably now have a "way cool" station at your facility that requires constant "testing", etc. these stations are usually pretty well equipped, antennaed, etc. that should now be the new "technical" meeting facility.

    imltho, when the shtf, your facility will need you to do what you do. REALLY DO WHAT YOU DO. they don't need you "playing radio", they need you and your team keeping their REALLY IMPORTANT stuff all up and running. your teams skills will be overall much more important then keeping the 3rd tier radio functionality manned. having a team of "non otherwise critical" operators will allow that station to be manned, and let you all do what you need to do. the facilities engineers are often the heroes of a disaster, keeping stuff running.

    be safe
  18. KJ5T

    KJ5T Ham Member QRZ Page

    I used to work for a non-profit, I handled all the ICT stuff which most of it was our network and didn't involve radio. But one of the reasons they hired me was because I was an amateur radio operator and they wanted to build a station and get involved with amateur radio for emergency communications. Obviously the actual building of the station was okay to be part of my job, it is okay for people to to get paid to build stations. Though we activated during Haiti and I operated the radio as part of my job, I always assumed since it was an actual emergency we had activated for it was okay.

    I agree with exemptions for people participating in drills, and as pointed out having hospital staff trained to operate radios is a good thing, but incidentally it means they will be paid while operating, but I think that is a lot different then me going around selling my services as a radio operator.
  19. KC8VWM

    KC8VWM Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    "I need an Echoenchephalograph, Electronystagmograph, a Hydrocollator pack, Nephelometer, and send us the Iontophoresis apparatus can you handle it?"


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    Last edited: Dec 9, 2012
  20. N4XTS

    N4XTS Ham Member QRZ Page

    The station was paid for by Federal grant money, and sold at a profit by some local hams who went around selling gear to several Metro area hospitals. I personally don't like how it was done but that is another story.

    The biggest issue is what the prior poster who discussed the situation in Joplin in detail (thanks for that info BTW) is getting folks to the facility when "all else fails", which is the original intention of these stations to begin with. It is when all backups to backups are gone. The problem of logisitics as I am sure you will agree is getting personnel to your site to man that station, most of the guys who would be cleared to do so live in the area, so the likely scenario here (we have our share of sky vacuums too) is that the roads would be impassable, most people would be managing their own situations and not be available when needed.

    That brings me to the next point: total comm failure. If the "the world ends in a few days", how will we (because I will most likely be at work!) get the word out that we need help? This is where it just makes logical sense to have someone on staff who is capable and duly licensed of manning said station as in such doomsday scenario it would be the only resource available. Waiting on persons outside to come in and "self dispatch" just doesn't work as has been shown time and time again. Sure, the hams are a great asset and can provide great help, but if they aren't available or can't get here then what?

    More Federal money was spent on toys that goes to waste. These things are only a resource if people know how to properly utilize them. It's great to have help, but in many situations, self sufficiency is the key to ensuring a postive as possible outcome.
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