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Rush Archives Blog

Happy New Year! Remembering Y2K at Rush

by Nathalie Wheaton on 2020-12-29T09:00:00-06:00 in History, Archives | Comments

As the tumultuous year of 2020 wraps up, we look back to another uncertain time, which can be summed up with three digits: Y2K.

Checking for Y2K bug issues, NewsRounds, December 1998.Knowing the "Y2K bug" could cause big problems at the Medical Center and beyond, Rush established its Y2K Task Force in 1998.

As Rush employees checked and double-checked all equipment and systems to prepare for the big night, it was also a time to prepare to celebrate a New Year's Eve like no other. Rush was ready to "Party Like It's 1999" with a party in the cafeteria for Rush employees. Rush staff on duty when the clock chimed held their own mini-celebrations in their departments. 

CAPTIONVan Davis (left), biomedical electronic technician II, and Fred W. Achilles (right), director of clinical engineering services, test a defibrillator for Year 2000 compliance. From NewsRounds, December 1998. [1]

From Rush's newsletter, NewsRounds, September 1998: [2]

"...Call it the Millennium Bug, the Year 2000 problem, Y2K, or just a big glitch. Whatever you call it — you’d better start preparing for it now. Although the Millennium Bug infects many computers, rendering them unable to process dates after December 31, 1999, the problem is much more than just a computer problem..."

PC Y2K Compliance Form, Y2K Task Force CollectionCAPTION: PC Compliance Form. From the Rush Y2K Task Force Collection, Acc. 2004-029.

"...From fax machines to defibrillators, the equipment that Rush relies on to take care of business and, more important, to take care of patients, will be affected by the Year 2000 problem. Rush is launching a massive effort to fight off this information 'infection,' and is depending on everyone to identify potentially vulnerable pieces of equipment..."

"...'This goes beyond our financial and informational systems, affecting every aspect of what we do in the Medical Center,' says James T. Frankenbach, senior vice president for corporate and hospital affairs. 'If we don’t start identifying potential problems now, Year 2000 failures could disrupt key business functions, like payroll and Medicare reimbursements and could even compromise some aspects of patient care.'..."

Y2K Preparation Memo, Rush Y2K Task ForceCAPTION: Y2K Preparation Memo for Rush employees, patients and families. From the Y2K Task Force Collection, Acc. 2004-029.

"...While having the wrong date on a fax may not seem important, using medical equipment that may be unable to function properly is a critical concern for hospitals. Because they run on date-sensitive, embedded computer chips, equipment such as heart monitors, pumps, dialysis machines, pacemakers and X-ray machines could be rendered useless — and possibly dangerous — on Dec. 31, 1999..."

A follow-up article in NewsRounds, December 1998, noted, "With the help of more than 250 employees, Rush has cleared one of the first hurdles in its race against the millennium bug. During October, about 30,000 pieces of equipment were identified and labeled as part of an inventory to prepare for the year 2000."

When it came time for the big night, Rush employees and visitors gathered in the cafeteria for cake and festivities. Other staff members on duty kept an eye on patients and equipment throughout the medical center as the clock striked midnight.

New Year's Eve at Rush, December 31, 1999:  A slideshow of photos from the Y2K Task Force Collection [LINK]

 

Want to learn more about the history of Rush or the Rush Archives collections? Explore the Rush Archives website, or contact the archivist, Nathalie Wheaton, MSLS. Follow us on Twitter! @RushArchives

All documents and photographs belong to the records collections of Rush University Medical Center Archives, Chicago, Ill. Contact the archivist for permissions and full citations.

[1] archive.org/details/newsrounds19981998rush/page/60/mode/2up

[2] archive.org/details/newsrounds19981998rush/page/44/mode/2up

 


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