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The height of the storm

Monday November 5, 2012
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Although the storm that devastated parts of the East Coast forced numerous hospitals to implement various emergency measures, most at least had a few days to prepare.

The situation was different at NYU Langone Medical Center, which undertook an emergency evacuation of its Tisch Hospital facility after a power outage Monday evening.

The evacuation became necessary when the hospital’s backup generators failed. More than 200 patients, including 45 critical care patients, were transported to other hospitals via private ambulances with help from the New York City Fire Department. About 50 patients remained to be transferred Tuesday morning.

The hospital had chosen not to evacuate patients before the storm, but ended up with about 12 feet of water in the basement, lower floors and elevator shafts. The onslaught of water was substantial enough to damage the generators, which are on the roof but are fueled by a pump on a lower floor.

The critical care patients were in the adult, pediatric and neonatal ICUs. Four newborns were on ventilators and had to be carried down nine flights of stairs with a nurse manually pumping air into their lungs, according to a CNN report. The situation was not quite as dire for adult ICU patients because their ventilators were battery-powered.

In all, about 1,000 staff members — nurses, physicians, residents and medical students — along with firefighters and police officers, evacuated the patients. A few lights worked in the hallways and staff members also worked by flashlight.

In some cases, patients had to be helped down 10 to 15 floors. Those who were too sick to walk were carried on plastic sleds by teams of four to five staff members, according to a CBS report.

“We worked closely with the FDNY, NYPD, Office of Emergency Management and accepting hospitals throughout this process and thank them for their immediate assistance,” hospital officials stated in a news release.

“We also thank our dedicated faculty, staff and medical students for their tireless efforts during the storm.

“At this time, we are focusing on assessing the full extent of the storm’s impact on all of our patient care, research, and education facilities. We will continue to provide updates as we learn more.”

Bret Rudy, MD, of the NYU Langone Medical Center, spoke on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” show about the evacuation.

“I think by great teamwork, and by really focusing on patient safety, all the children were transported safely and made it to the receiving hospitals without any incident, which is what we were intending to do,” Rudy said.

“We’re always prepared for any emergency with any baby, so every staff is trained to be able to bag a baby in order to keep them well-aerated and oxygenated and that’s why — through the use of our very highly-trained nurses, physicians, and assistants — we were able to get all these babies to the receiving hospitals very, very safely.”

Bellevue Hospital

HHC Bellevue announced the transfer of all patients because of storm damage Wednesday.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg estimated about 500 patients would be moved. “We are in the process of finding beds to move these patients to now,” Bloomberg said Wednesday afternoon.

Bellevue initially was able to continue operating on backup generators when the storm hit Monday evening. By Wednesday, the extent of flooding damage in the basement persuaded hospital administrators to undertake the evacuation.

The Greater New York Hospital Association was helping to coordinate the transfers, according to the New York Daily News. At least some patients had to be carried down the stairs.

As it did with NYU Langone, Mount Sinai Medical Center in East Harlem announced it would take in some of Bellevue’s transferred patients.

A day after accepting 64 patients from NYU Langone, Mount Sinai took in about 10 psychiatric patients from Bellevue on Tuesday evening.

The hospital stated it could accommodate 15 more psychiatry patients, two pediatric patients and 30 med/surg patients, plus seven more patients at its Queens campus.

“If Mount Sinai takes in these patients, the institution will be operating over-capacity,” the hospital stated. “A Mount Sinai team reported to Bellevue on Wednesday morning to assess the situation and coordinate the safe transfer of patients to Mount Sinai via ambulance.”

Many other issues

Up and down the East Coast, hospital EDs were preparing for an influx of patients with storm-related injuries. Many told staff to bring enough clothes and personal items to last a few days, and made preparations to accept patients from evacuated areas such as Atlantic City, N.J., and Lower Manhattan.

At Nassau University Medical Center in Long Island, N.Y., seven babies were born in a nine-hour span during the storm, according to a news release from NUHealth.

“We thank our entire staff for their dedication and compassion as our healthcare workers have always played a critical role during such emergencies as Hurricanes Sandy and, last year, Irene, in understanding the importance of reporting to work and staying at work to help care for their patients,” the NUHealth release stated.


If you would like to let Nurse.com know how your hospital is getting by during the hurricane, please email editor@nurse.com. Please be sure to include your full name, staff position and credentials/certifications.