Hurricane Sandy one year later: Hospitals recover, prepare

One year after Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, New York hospitals are still working to make changes and fully recover from the damage caused during the natural disaster.

Experts warn that the next natural disaster won't be exactly like Sandy and hospitals need to address planning and preparation flaws that the storm exposed, CBS News reported.

Hospitals are looking to facilities like The Shorefront Center, which weathered the storm unscathed because the entire building is on stilts with 30 feet separating the ground-level garage from the first-floor elevated lobby, reported.

"There's been a flurry of activity over the last 12 months not only to repair, restore, rebuild and replace areas that were damaged, but also to be better prepared for the next storm," Alan D. Aviles, president of New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., said in a statement, reported. "We have worked within the guidelines of Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg's Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency to create an effective plan."

Bellevue Hospital's 182,000 square-foot basement in New York City flooded in a matter of 45 minutes, and it took five days to pump all the water out, forcing the hospital to evacuate patients the night of the storm, reported NY1 news. New York University Langone Medical Center, Manhattan Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Coney Island Hospital also had to evacuate, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

In response, Bellevue elevated several electrical switch rooms, which were previously located in the basement, and installed flood barriers at the loading ramps after the basement was restored. The hospital is running at full-speed now, but other facilities haven't been as lucky.

Coney Island Hospital, for example, suffered serious damage to systems in the basement and first floor of the hospital, forcing the facility to rebuild many significant parts of the hospital, NY1 News reported. The MRI and CAT scan services are still located in mobile units, and the hospital is waiting on state approval to reopen the psychiatric, emergency and pediatric inpatient unites, which the organization expects to receive in November.

 "A similar storm would wipe out the emergency department, that entire first floor again, so we have temporary barriers in place to protect proportions of that campus," Aviles said. "But we need a bigger solution there. Probably the elevation of the entire emergency room department, essentially the building of a new building."

Storm repairs and long-term flood protection needed at all city hospitals will exceed $800 million, projects on hold until the city gets funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to NY1.

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