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Hospitals Shuttered After Sandy Could be Closed for Weeks

By Mary Johnson | November 6, 2012 5:12pm

NEW YORK — A week after Hurricane Sandy forced five of the city’s hospitals to shut down and evacuate their water-logged and powerless facilities, four remain closed, with no dates set for when they will reopen.

Both New York Downtown Hospital in Lower Manhattan and the VA Hospital in Kips Bay were closed and evacuated in advance of the storm, with their patients rerouted to other facilities in the city.

Bellevue Hospital, NYU Langone Medical Center and Coney Island Hospital were all shuttered after Sandy hit, causing significant damage to each.

But so far, only New York Downtown Hospital has reopened fully. The hospital was expected to be fully operational on Tuesday.

Officials did not offer specific dates for when the other four hospitals would reopen, but the process of repairing damage done during Hurricane Sandy is expected to take weeks at some facilities.

NYU Langone Medical Center, located on First Avenue near East 32nd Street, was forced to evacuate the entire facility during the height of the storm on Monday, Oct. 29, after a back-up generator failed.

Christopher Rucas, a spokesman for the hospital, said the majority of NYU’s ambulatory care centers and faculty group practices reopened on Monday, but it is still too early to know the full extent of the damage Hurricane Sandy inflicted on the hospital.

A reopening date cannot be set until engineers can complete an assessment of the facility, Rucas added.

“We believed we could withstand a surge of approximately 12 feet, which is above the 100-year flood level for New York City,” Rucas said in an email.

“The surge from Hurricane Sandy was recorded at 13.88 feet at Battery Park,” Rucas added. “In our location, we believe the surge from Sandy may have been even higher.”

With news that another massive storm was headed toward the New York City area this week, workers were milling around the deserted hospital Tuesday, piling sandbags around the facility.

Workers on the scene said they had some 10,000 sandbags to set up around the hospital in advance of Wednesday’s storm.

Bellevue Hospital, located a few blocks south of NYU, was forced to evacuate two days after Hurricane Sandy hit, after officials determined that the hospital’s basement was flooded with 17 million gallons of water.

Evelyn Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs Bellevue, said it would be “several weeks” before Bellevue, the only trauma center below 68th Street in Manhattan, can get back up and running.

Coney Island Hospital, another HHC facility, shut down the day after the storm after it too sustained massive flooding, Hernandez said.

The hospital’s outpatient and walk-in clinics have since reopened, but the inpatient services and the emergency room are both likely to remains closed for “several weeks,” as well, Hernandez said.

And the VA Hospital, which was evacuated in advance of the storm, also remains closed, with no timeline set for a reopening, according to information posted on the VA’s website.

“The basement and ground floor were flooded, resulting in failure of electrical switches, mechanical systems, steam and the fire suppression system,” according to the VA’s website. “Also destroyed was clinical equipment, including a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) used in outpatient clinic areas.”

In the meantime, the patients from the Manhattan VA location have all been transferred to other VA locations throughout the city.

Patients from the other shuttered hospitals have been sent to St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, Mount Sinai and Lenox Hill, which narrowly escaped a nurses’ strike Monday when workers successfully negotiated a new contract with hospital management.

Lenox Hill took in 84 patients from NYU Langone Medical Center and started issuing credentials to physicians from NYU so that the displaced doctors could continue caring for their evacuated patients, according to information from the hospital.

Mount Sinai took in more than 100 patients after the evacuations, hospital officials said.

Also, two days after the storm, Mount Sinai opened the Derald H. Ruttenberg Treatment Center of the Tisch Cancer Institute on Madison Avenue near East 101st Street. That freed up space the hospital had occupied on the Mount Sinai campus, which was then turned into an inpatient unit to care for non-critical patients after Hurricane Sandy hit.

And St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital took in about 130 patients from NYU and Bellevue. Jim Mandler, a spokesman for Continuum Health Partners, which runs St. Luke’s-Roosevelt, said the hospital continues to house a high number of patients, but that number has started to go down.

“It’s definitely creeping down as we’re able to discharge more patients,” Mandler said. “And I think that St. Luke’s-Roosevelt is returning to a greater degree of normalcy.”