On Oct. 29, at least 300 patients were evacuated from New York University’s hospital and transported to other hospitals after Hurricane Sandy caused their backup generator to fail. Hospital officials confirmed that all patients, including 20 newborns all in the neonatal intensive care unit, were successfully moved to other hospitals for the night.
The patients were transported around midnight just after the storm hit New Jersey. Anywhere from 50 to 70 ambulances were lined up along First Ave in Kips Bay to transport patients.
According to Lorinda Klein, an NYU spokeswoman, the evacuation went on all night and emergency personnel were still evacuating patients on Tuesday morning. She said they were hoping to finish by noon. The evacuation was slow because it had to be carefully executed to avoid accidents. Also, some patients needed several nurses with them.
The hospital’s electricity went out earlier that night. In fact, most of Manhattan from 39th Street to the financial district was without electricity. The backup generator was working at first, but started to fail around 11pm.
“We had a failure of our primary power, our secondary power, our backup, all the backup systems failed within 30 minutes,” Dr. Robert Grossman, NYU Langone Medical Center Dean and CEO, said.
Skeptics are asking why the generators were not checked before the storm, and wondering if they were even working before the storm.
“Our generators are fully compliant with all state and federal regulations and, using good prudence, we test them all the time as we have to do anyway,” Lisa Greiner, a spokeswoman for New York University Langone Medical Center, explained to Huffington Post.
However, one of the hospitals trustees, Gary Chon, told Bloomberg TV something different. He said the generators “are not state-of-the-art” and that the hospital’s board was aware of the problems.
“The infrastructure at NYU is something old,” said Cohn. Other board members and hospital officials refused to comment on Cohn’s remark.
Hospital officials thought the generators would hold up through the storm because they did not expect a storm of this magnitude. The chairman of the hospital board and founder of Home Depot, Kenneth Langone, was a patient in the hospital at the time and fully aware of the sketchy generators. He, too, thought they would fine.
“Do you think they’d have kept me in there if they thought I was going to be unsafe?” Langone told Bloomberg News.
Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, made the call to leave the hospital open even though it sits right alongside the East River and was in the evacuation zone. Bloomberg closed the hospital last year for Hurricane Irene.
However, NYU hospital personnel took the initiative and canceled all non-emergency services for Monday and Tuesday and started to evacuate. Hospital staff manually transported patients down 15 flights of steps. The hospital had very low lighting, and many used flashlights as their only source of light.
Newborns that were on breathing respirators were carried down nine flights of stairs while a nurse operated a breathing bag that delivered air to the babies’ lungs.
Dr. Andrew Brotman, Senior Vice President and Vice Dean for Clinical Affairs and Strategy told CNN that the process as very “labor intensive and extremely difficult.”
Many things could go wrong when transporting a patient, especially a baby. “Some of those breathing tubes can be very tenuous, they come out very easily. Someone obviously manually ventilating, providing air and ventilation to the baby, even if someone gets tired- that can be a huge problem. Babies breathe faster than adults, so you have to be doing this quite quickly,” said Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the chief medical correspondent for CNN.
He also explained that dangers for the other patients can be changes in temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate just from being moved outside during a storm.
However, it seems that the 1000 plus doctors, nurses, residents, and medical students were extra careful and attentive because all patients that were evacuated survived and are currently scattered among local New York hospitals.
Elizabeth Thompson is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. She can be reached at ET715984@wcupa.edu.