New York City's Bellevue Hospital Forced to Evacuate Patients After Sandy

Medical workers say conditions at the hospital pose challenges to patient care.

ByABC News
October 31, 2012, 11:49 AM

Oct. 31, 2012— -- New York City's Bellevue Hospital Center was evacuating hundreds of patients to other hospitals, according to city officials, making it the latest hospital in the city forced to transfer patients after damage from Superstorm Sandy.

The evacuations from Bellevue -- perhaps the best known of the 11 hospitals that make up New York City's public hospital system -- followed other transfers from NYU Langone Medical Center on Monday and Coney Island Hospital on Tuesday.

When Sandy hit the New York area Monday night, Bellevue, located on 1st Avenue and 27th Street in flood-stricken Lower Manhattan, almost lost its generators. At least one got repaired just in time to stave off an evacuation, but it's been difficult to keep the hospital going.

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Bellevue, its staff and its remaining patients have been struggling along in the aftermath of Sandy with failing power, partially lighted halls and no computers, making it difficult to locate patients within the facility, hospital staff told ABC News today. Staff members spoke of long walks up and down dark stairwells and hallways to treat patients.

"It's Katrina-esque in there," one nurse told ABC News.

Similar conditions existed at Metropolitan Hospital, another city facility that was running on backup generator power. That hospital is located on 1st Avenue and East 97th Street in Manhattan.

For two days, the Bellevue staff and the city have been poised for an eventual evacuation, and that time now seems to have come, along with another quest for beds.

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"We learned this morning that Bellevue will now have to evacuate because of damage that it has sustained," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters. "They didn't think the damage was that bad, and we did have a generator going, and the National Guard helped carry fuel up to the roof, because that's where the fuel tank was and they were running out.

"But the bottom line is that when they got into the basement they realized there was more damage," Bloomberg added. "It's going to affect something like 500 patients. They had already discharged patients that didn't require critical care. We are in the process of finding beds to move these patients to now and I want to thank the greater New York hospital association for their help in the process of relocating patients."

The Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan's East Harlem neighborhood further uptown told ABC News it would be accepting some of Bellevue's patients. The patients likely will be received at Mount Sinai's emergency room.

Earlier, when Mount Sinai could no longer reach anyone at Bellevue, it sent a medical team of eight to Bellevue, a Mount Sinai spokesman told ABC News. When the group arrived, two cardiac physicians told the Mount Sinai team they had two very serious patients that needed help. Both of those patients were to be moved to Mount Sinai, along with other patients.

Today, Bellevue nurses could be seen walking up and down stairs with food trays and medicine. Some had to hike to the 17th floor, where some patients have "serious conditions."

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The highest floor patients had to be carried from was 18th floor, New York City Health and Hospital Corporation President Alan Aviles told reporters this evening. The National Guard was instrumental in carrying fuel up to the hospital's rooftop generator and patients down the stairs, Aviles added.