Some glimpses of the work of medical staff and emergency responders during the evacuation of the 705 bed New York University Langone Medical Center during ‘Super-storm Sandy’ following the failure of hospital’s back-up generators.

The 15 hour evacuation included 20 babies from the neonatal intensive care unit. Many patients required assistance by staff or transport in slide devices down the darkened stairwells.

NYU sent home about 100 of its 400 patients earlier Monday to lighten its load, starting the evacuation of the remaining 300 patients at about 7:30 p.m. when backup generators began to fail, Clair said. There were no injuries during relocation.

The scene was reminiscent of hospital evacuations in New Orleans after Katrina, with patients being carried down stairs on stretchers because elevators were out, and nurses squeezing oxygen bags for them because of lack of power to run breathing machines.

The difference is that in New Orleans, patients were trapped in flooded hospitals; in New York, dozens of ambulances could get through to move patients to safety.

The hospital blamed the severity of Sandy and higher-than-expected storm surge that flooded its basement but had little else to say beyond a short statement emailed to reporters after the evacuation was complete.

“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,” the statement said.
:: Huffington Post::

No doubt plenty of questions will be asked about the disaster preparedness of the medical center in the weeks to come. And once again there are some salient lessons here for us all with respect to preparing for worse case scenarios in our own hospitals plans.

But what is without question is the incredible dedication and sacrifice of the medical, paramedical and hospital staff who worked on throughout the storm separated from their own families and loved ones. Probably with little time for communication with them.
Staff who were then required to perform a full hospital evacuation by torchlight, with no functioning elevators and whilst performing manual ventilation for some patients.

What is also without question is that because of their exhaustive work, and the work of staff at the receiving hospitals, disaster did not slide into tragedy.

I sometimes wonder if our communities simply expect (with perhaps some complacency) that the health system will be there for them when disaster strikes.  Well, we have seen on several occasions now over the last few years that our respective health systems have very real limits. Once these limits are approached, it is those very special people who work within the system, not the system itself that will be relied on.

Without question.

2 Responses to “Evacuation of a hospital. Without question.”

  1. We learnt about the evacuation of Cairns Base hospital in response to Cyclone Yasi in post grad. It seemed like organised chaos, but I cannot imagine going down stairs with intubated patients etc. Big ups to the health care and allied health care staff doing it tough.

  2. I just read via my union’s web site that as of 10/31/12 Bellevue Hospital’s generators have stopped working and the hospital is being evacuated. Bellevue is one of the largest city hospitals. Ms Sandy’s impact is not over.

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