Could NYU Langone failed backups signal disaster plan problems?

Following the fallout of Hurricane Sandy, the failed backup systems and mid-storm evacuations at NYU Langone Medical Center are getting mixed reviews in how it handled the loss of power this week. With failures to the backup generators, some pointed to outdated technology, while others applauded the evacuations and commitment from staff in what CNN calls a "situation unlike any the hospital had ever encountered."

As of 11:00 a.m. EST Tuesday, all 300 patients had been safely transported to nearby facilities, according to the hospital's website. (At the time of publication, the website displayed only one page with the storm update.)

Lisa Greiner, an NYU spokeswoman, said Monday that the ambulances ferried patients to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Mount Sinai Hospital, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System and New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and the receiving hospitals would notify patients' families, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"It was great. Everything was very organized," Charles Rosenbaum, proud father of newborn baby, Alice, told the WSJ.

Another patient, however, noted the confusion. "I don't know, I'm just following them," Kyung Hye Lee, a brain hemorrhage patient said before getting into an ambulance. "I'm very scared; I'm nervous."  

Bret Rudy, a physician at Langone told CNN, "I think, by great teamwork and by really focusing on patient safety, all the children were transported safely and made it to the receiving hospitals without any incident, which is what we were intending to do," referring to staff carrying newborns down flights of stairs, while manually pumping air into their lungs.

"We're always prepared for any emergency with any baby so every staff is trained to be able to bag a baby in order to keep them well-aerated and oxygenated and that's why--through the use of our very highly trained nurses, physicians, and assistants--we were able to get all these babies to the receiving hospitals very, very safely," Rudy noted.

With heavy flooding and loss of power, the Langone incident has "startled the medical world," Politico Pro reported, as other hospitals worry the hospital's failed backup systems could serve as a warning sign of more storms and flawed disaster plans to come. However, industry experts told Politico the event was an unusual one and that hospitals proactively identify vulnerabilities in their disaster plans.

Kenneth Langone, who coincidentally was a patient at his namesake hospital during the storm, told Bloomberg, "Last night, God decides to give us a test, and our machines failed."

He acknowledged the hospital was old. "These facilities are decades, many decades old, and one thing about New York City is you don't have the luxury of flexibility; you're stuck with the space you have," Langone said.

Nevertheless, the billionaire cofounder of Home Depot and NYU chairman, said, "The story here is the magnificence of the effort of all of our people and what they did," Langone told Bloomberg.

According to NYU Hospital board member and Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn, the entire hospital is undergoing a $3 billion renovation "to ensure that we would have backup power forever."

For more information:
- see the CNN report
- here's the hospital website
- read the WSJ article (subscription required)
- here's the Politico Pro article (subscription required)
- read the Bloomberg article

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