Prepared hospitals cope well with Irene

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, hospitals are assessing how they fared from the hurricane.

Still stinging from the lessons learned after Katrina, public officials took precautions in anticipation of Hurricane Irene, particularly in New York, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered hospitals, senior centers and nursing homes located in low-lying coastal areas to evacuate patients.

"[W]hen you look at a hurricane, it's not whether it can withstand wind and rain, but more importantly, is it going to flood, and are the surrounding roads going to flood? It's not only about protecting the people inside the hospital, but also those who might try and make their way here if they think the hospital is open," Joseph Marcellino, Brooklyn's Coney Island Hospital associate director of emergency management, told PBS NewsHour about its evacuation.

In addition, North Shore-LIJ facilities in Long Island, Queens, and Manhattan, among other institutions, all had contingency plans regarding power generators, portable air conditioners, and other emergency equipment in case of power outages, report Healthcare IT News.

How did the hospitals fare? Reports indicate that hospitals evacuated with relative ease. For example, in its first full-scale evacuation, Coney Island Hospital moved 15 newborns, two children, and 248 adults (16 of those patients who were on ventilators) almost seamlessly, reports NewsHour.

However, Coney Island physicians said they were unfamiliar with the procedures and electronic ordering systems when they moved to Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, who accepted about 70 evacuees, leading to delays in tests and treatments, reports the New York Times.

Regardless, strong coordination among medical staff, the nursing, ancillary, and support staff, as well as other hospitals, emergency services, police department, and fire department helped carry out emergency plans, according to Marcellino.

"I'm very happy with how things went," said Dr. Michael Lucchesi, chief medical officer and chairman of the department of emergency medicine of the SUNY Downstate system (umbrella for the Long Island College Hospital), about the staff's skills in the NYT article. "You can't predict these things."

For more information:
- read the NewsHour article
- read Healthcare IT News article
- read the NYT article
- visit the Public Health Emergency webpage

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