Hurricane Sandy Forces New York City Hospitals To Evacuate

Medical professionals evacuated over 200 patients from two different New York City hospitals late last night after the hospitals’ backup generators failed in the midst of a widespread blackout. As Hurricane Sandy — now classified as a “superstorm” — tore through the mid-Atlantic region, hospital employees worked through the night to transfer patients to alternate locations once it became clear that Sandy’s damage was more serious than they had anticipated.

Hospitals across the East Coast prepared for the impending storm by paring down non-essential health operations and stocking up on supplies, but CNN reports that NYU Langone Medical Center was also forced to evacuate its entire facility when the storm worsened last night:

NYU didn’t anticipate such heavy flooding from Sandy, the superstorm that hit Monday, and chose not to evacuate all its patients before the storm, as they did with Hurricane Irene a year ago. But between 7 and 7:45 p.m. Monday, the hospital’s basement, lower floors, and elevator shafts filled with 10 to 12 feet of water, and the hospital lost its power, according to Dr. Andrew Brotman, senior vice president and vice dean for clinical affairs and strategy.

“Things went downhill very, very rapidly and very unexpectedly,” he said. “The flooding was just unprecedented.”

Emergency generators did kick in, but two hours later, about 90% of that power went out, and the hospital decided to evacuate. […] Four of the newborns were on respirators that were breathing for them, and when the power went out, each baby was carried down nine flights of stairs while a nurse manually squeezed a bag to deliver air to the baby’s lungs.

“This is a labor intensive, extremely difficult process,” Brotman said.

About 1,000 staff members — including doctors, nurses, residents, and medical students — worked to evacuate the remaining patients by flashlight, along with the help of firefighters and police officers. Brotman noted that NYU’s facility is designed to withstand floods, and only one building flooded during Hurricane Irene. But Sandy left seven hospital buildings flooded with between seven and ten feet of water.