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Y2K Has Hospitals Ailing

The Senate's most alarming conclusion in a report on the year 2000 bug is that health care is most vulnerable to Y2K computer glitches.

The report warns that computer failure could even cause the shutdown of operating rooms, CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports.

"I don't think it's automatic we're going to get widespread death as a result of this, but there could be some feathery moments," Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, said.

Health care faces a higher risk than other industries, because it is so dependent on computer technology. In most hospitals everything from the x-ray machine to the computer that files insurance claims either has date-sensitive software in its system or shares information with a computer that does.

That worries medical professionals. "Some of these machines can't be made Y2K compliant," said Arthur Gross, of the Albany Medical Center in Upstate New York.

At his hospital, Gross says guarding against Y2K trouble is a $90 million project. The hospital is replacing everything from EKG machines to desktop computers, because every link in the computer chain has to work.

If the data that is passed through these systems is not Y2K compliant it could contaminate other systems.

But what about the rural or inner city hospitals that don't have $90 million? "I think potentially, potentially, there could be some risk to patients hospitalized in those settings," Gross added.

The makers of medical machines admit there is a problem but insist they are solving it as quickly as possible.

"I can not sit here and represent that everything is fixed," Alan Magazine of the Health Industry Managers Association told CBS News. "What I can represent is that companies that do have calendar functions in their products are working very hard to fix them."

Facing the potential of massive liability with just 10 months to go, the industry is now spending hundred of millions of dollars on Y2K fixes. The diagnosis is serious, and the rush is on to avoid an emergency.

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