Mount Sinai Steps In for Hospitals Overwhelmed by Sandy

(Image Credit: John Minchillo/AP Photo)

Mount Sinai Hospital is awaiting two more patients from New York City's Bellevue Hospital, which is expecting to evacuate because of deteriorating conditions there.

Mount Sinai sent a team of eight staff and doctors after it was unable to make contact with Bellevue (the oldest public hospital in the United States), a spokesman said. Since Hurricane Sandy struck New York City, Mount Sinai Hospital has taken in more than 64 patients from New York City hospitals, many from NYU Langone Medical Center after emergency evacuations Monday night, apparently the result of failed generators.

Mount Sinai said it was prepared for Hurricane Sandy after learning a lesson last year that led staff to secure its buildings even more for Hurricane Sandy. The hospital, located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, sits in close proximity to the Central Park reservoir.

When Hurricane Irene hit last year, Mount Sinai President Dr. Kenneth Davis told ABC News, he watched in the basement as water poured in, nearly reaching an area of wires that brings air conditioning to the hospital. Davis watched the water rise in the basement, just one level above the sub-basement, housing six of the hospital's generators.

"If we start to lose this, we're going to lose, in the middle of summer, all the air conditioning in the hospital and there will be many other consequences downstream, like we're going to have to shut all the ORs," Davis said.

Davis said the tide turned and water receded in the basement, leaving the hospital in good condition, but afterward, the hospital engineers were able to identify the vulnerable spots inside the hospital and secure those areas against flooding. The area in the basement that flooded last time was secured with cinder blocks, insulation and a pump in preparation for Hurricane Sandy.

"After what happened with Irene, it was a warning shot," Davis said. "We knew that this was the area that had to be secured. Our team had worked on this and had been thinking about this area from the time Irene happened, well before we had Sandy, but we were prepared for what we had to do in our most vulnerable point of Mount Sinai.

"Because remember, right below us is a whole bunch of generators, wires. Once this starts to flood, we were going to be in big trouble, so we didn't allow that to happen."

Mount Sinai has 13 generators scattered throughout its medical campus to power the hospital in an emergency, seven of which sit two stories down in sub-basements, right at water level. But those rooms were equipped with pumps, back-up pumps and drains as a precaution and the hospital says they were watched closely during this week's storm.

"We were going to be in fine shape, even under the worst circumstance, which didn't happen. These [generators] didn't have to turn on except for a brief moment during an electrical surge," Davis said.

Six of the hospital's generators are already on the roof, but to ensure from future disasters, Mount Sinai Hospital has a two-year plan to move the other seven sub-basement generators to roof top levels. Installing new generators on rooftop levels will cost the hospital more than $2.5 million a generator with installation, according to their engineers.

Davis took ABC News on a tour of several of the generators that are already 12 stories up. Mount Sinai disperses those high level generators across several buildings so that if one area comes under trouble, it won't affect the entire hospital.

"Obviously, they'll be safer in a higher place," Davis said. "It's very hard to put a dollar [value] on human life, so we know we want to run a safe hospital under any circumstance."

Although Mount Sinai didn't experience any flooding this time, Davis says it was prepared for it.

"I have no idea what happened at the other hospitals," he said. "I'm not an engineer, but all I know is what we did, and what we did is not just prepare the day before but we have risk management meetings every month. The team is on top of this every day and when something like this happens, we have drilled and know what we want to do."