NEW YORK Feb 7 More than three months after
Superstorm Sandy forced Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital Center to
evacuate 500 patients and shut down one of the busiest emergency
rooms in the city, the hospital reopened for normal operations
Bellevue, located near the East River, was evacuated on Oct.
31 when its basement - which housed electrical switching gear
and other equipment critical to the hospital's operations - took
in millions of gallons of water. It was the hospital's first
evacuation in its 276-year history.
Several area hospitals, including Mount Sinai and St. Luke's
Roosevelt, took in evacuated patients.
Lynda Curtis, Bellevue's Executive Director, said that while
"ramping up to full service" will take more time, the hospital
is again functioning as a Level 1 Trauma Center, meaning it is
able to admit patients, perform surgeries, receive ambulance
cases and deliver inpatient behavioral health services.
Bellevue's closing followed the dramatic evacuation at New
York University's Langone Medical Center on the night of the
storm. All 215 of its patients, including critically ill
infants, were carried out of Langone when its backup generator
failed after some eight feet of water flooded its basement.
The Manhattan Veterans Affairs Hospital and the New York
Downtown Hospital, both in low-lying areas of Manhattan,
evacuated patients before the storm hit. Brooklyn's Coney Island
Hospital near the Atlantic Ocean beaches was later evacuated.
All of the evacuated patients survived the transfer.
Lower Manhattan, as well as large stretches of Brooklyn,
Queens and Staten Island, lost power, while flooded subway
tunnels took much of the city's mass transit system out of
commission for days.
Bellevue's reopening has been gradual since Superstorm Sandy
slammed into the northeast coastline in late October.
On Nov. 19, Bellevue reopened several primary care clinics,
24-hour walk-in urgent care and outpatient pharmacy services.
Several weeks later, its emergency department reopened in a
limited capacity and two weeks after that, it began receiving
ambulance for non-critical cases.
"It has been a labor of almost unimaginable scope but
Bellevue is back," said Alan Aviles, head of the New York City
Health and Hospitals Corporation. "We reopen Bellevue not just
with a plan for today, but also with a long-term plan to
strengthen Bellevue against storms that may strike in the
The equipment failures at NYU and Bellevue brought to the
fore what emergency experts have warned for years: U.S.
hospitals are far from ready to protect patients when disaster
strikes their facilities.
Since the storm, Bellevue has relocated critical equipment
from its basement to higher elevation areas on the first floor.
Maintenance crews have also focused on fortifying electrical
systems, elevators and water supply pumps, the hospital said.
(Reporting by Edith Honan, editing by Paul Thomasch, desking by