Hospital rebuilding vital to protect NYC from climate change

New York hospitals will play a crucial role in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's $20 billion plan to protect the city from the effects of climate change--a strategy he developed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which forced the closure of five acute care hospitals and one psychiatric hospital and the emergency evacuation of nearly 2,000 patients.

City hospitals incurred an estimated $1 billion in costs associated with emergency response measures taken during and immediately after the violent storm, according to a in-depth report that analyzed the effects of Hurricane Sandy and provided recommendations to prevent a similar catastrophe due to climate change. These costs included staff overtime, patient evacuations and emergency repairs of equipment. Damaged hospitals estimate it will cost another $1 billion for repairs and mitigation.

In his 430-page report, "A Stronger, More Resilient New York," Bloomberg outlines how to protect hospitals and other healthcare organizations against climate events. Hospital-specific recommendations include:

  • Improve the design and construction of new hospitals
  • Retrofit existing hospitals in the 500-year flood plain
  • Support the Health and Hospitals Corporation's (HHC) effort to protect public hospital emergency departments from flooding
  • Encourage telecommunications resiliency and electronic record keeping

"Just as we need a plan to protect our homes and businesses, we also need to protect our hospitals and healthcare facilities," Bloomberg said Monday during a speech outlining his plan. "Thanks to the incredible work of thousands of health professionals, city agencies, and volunteers, no lives were lost when many of these facilities were evacuated because of Sandy."

However, he said, the city has to prepare for all climate-related emergencies, not only flooding. "We want to avoid emergency evacuations whenever possible. And we have to make sure the facilities we depend on in emergencies are there for us when we need them most, " Bloomberg said, adding, "So we'll amend the construction codes to require new facilities to meet a high level of flood resistance--and to have access to backup capacity for power and other critical systems, not only in case of flooding, but also heat waves."

To learn more:
- here's the report on healthcare initiatives (.pdf)
- read Bloomberg's speech