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An Unhealthy Millennium?

(As reported 2/28/99)
Concerns for the nation's health care system are at the top of a soon-to-be-released Senate report detailing the how the U.S. is coping with the Year 2000 computer glitch, or "Y2K Bug."

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), who headed the Senate's investigation along with Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT), told the CBS broadcast Face the Nation that 90% of the 800,000 doctors offices in the U.S. are not prepared to deal with the issue at all.

At the very least, Dodd says, the bug could impact critically important medical records. Ominously, some medical devices and equipment could also be at risk.

"There are some 9,000 to 11,000 medical devices sold in the United States -- made offshore in some cases -- that are date sensitive or have embedded chips in them," Dodd said.

Dodd said dialysis machines and heart monitoring equipment that aren't compliant with Y2K could shut down, read information incorrectly and cause serious problems.

And the problem isn't necessarily restricted to older equipment.

"We've even found in some cases here with medical devices that have been made in the last year or two, where this information has been available, that there is a Y2K problem, this equipment has not been fixed," he said.

"When you get into urban or rural hospitals, the problem is a serious one. More affluent hospitals are able to get the new equipment but we are very worried about what happens in the rural or urban situations."

The Senate's report, which will be released this week, will also look at potential nuclear dangers and financial threats posed by Y2K.

The Y2K problem stems from the fact that most of the computerized equipment in use today was built to accommodate only the two last digits of the year, and could be beset by conflicts when the year read as "00" arrives on Jan. 1, 2000.

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