After the hurricane

East Coast hospitals pick up pieces after Hurricane Irene

August 29, 2011

After Hurricane Irene barreled up the East Coast this weekend, hospitals are dealing with the storm's impact and attempting to resume normal business operations.

Hospitals from North Carolina to New York this weekend braced for the hurricane's effects by evacuating patients and instituting mandatory lockdowns. Overall, Hurricane Irene dumped more than one foot of water over North Carolina and spawned tornadoes in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. The storm caused power outages for more than three million homes and killed 21 people, CNN reports.

According to Modern Healthcare, the storm knocked out power at Morehead City, N.C.-based Carteret General Hospital, which said on its Facebook page that it was running on generators. Meanwhile, the Middletown Times Herald-Record reports that hospitals in New York's mid-Hudson Valley are battling with the impact of flood waters.

For example, roads leading to Wallkill-based Orange Regional Medical Center were cut off by flood waters. In addition, bridges surrounding Warwick-based St. Anthony Community Hospital were washed out, stranding the facility on an island, a spokesperson said. However, the hospital continued to function and was fully staffed.

Hospitals accommodating evacuated patients
Facilities throughout New Jersey and New York have been making room for patients who were evacuated from other hospitals in the region. For instance, Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn accommodated more than 100 patients from NYU Langone Medical Center and Coney Island Hospital.

According to Long Island Newsday, several New York hospitals reopened their doors on Sunday after evacuating patients. Both campuses of Staten Island University Hospital on Sunday received permission from the State Health Department to reopen. Patients on Sunday were transported back to the hospitals or released, and hospital employees were expected to report to their usual posts on Monday.

NYT highlights challenges of hospital evacuation
The New York Times on Sunday examined hospitals' evacuation processes ahead of the storm, noting that many facilities had trouble accommodating an influx of patients. According to the Times, while some evacuations were planned, many patients arrived at hospitals unannounced, causing some patients to wait in line to enter the ED.

In addition, the Times notes that although hospital staff from other facilities traveled with patients to monitor their care, they often had trouble assimilating to a new hospital's procedures, which caused treatment and test delays.

However, the chair of the department of emergency medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center said he was pleased with his disaster command team's response, noting that staff had the opportunity to practice skills needed to respond to a more severe disaster (CNN, 8/29; Barr, AP/Modern Healthcare, 8/27 [subscription required]; Barr, AP/Modern Healthcare, 8/28 [subscription required]; Fiore, MedPage Today, 8/27; Paulsen, Staten Island Advance, 8/28; Ochs, Newsday, 8/28; Fink, Times, 8/28).