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Bellevue Hospital
Some ambulatory services resumed at Bellevue Hospital Center, shown Oct. 31 as officials evacuated the facility because of damage from superstorm Sandy.
Photo credit: AP PHOTO

Regional News/Northeast: Hospitals closed by Sandy resume ambulatory services, and other news

By Modern Healthcare
Posted: November 24, 2012 - 12:01 am ET

NEW YORK—Bellevue Hospital Center, one of two New York City-owned hospitals that remain closed because of damage from superstorm Sandy, resumed some ambulatory services Nov. 19. The hospital's emergency room is expected to open in mid-December after power is restored, but the ER will not accept trauma patients until the hospital's critical-care, operating rooms and other inpatient services resume in February, said Alan Aviles, president and CEO of the New York City Health and Hospital Corp., which owns Bellevue and Coney Island Hospital. “I'm very pleased to be able to say welcome back to Bellevue Hospital,” Aviles said to reporters and employees in Bellevue's atrium last week. The storm knocked out power to the hospital and flooded Bellevue's basement, which shut down its elevators and eventually the water supply. Fuel had to be carried to emergency generators after floodwaters disabled the fuel pump. Officials first evacuated the most critical of the hospitals' more than 700 patients and then decided to close the hospital entirely. Aviles said initial plans called for Bellevue to reopen its ER at the end of the month using generator power, but the hospital's utility power will be restored in December. Officials decided to wait for utility power to reopen the ER, he said. Coney Island Hospital is expected to open in January. Aviles said HHC's Metropolitan Hospital Center and Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital and Nursing Facility also suffered serious damage, and its Harlem Hospital Center was moderately damaged by the storm. New York City last week agreed to increase its capital budget by $500 million to aid storm-damaged schools and hospitals, including $300 million for HHC. The deadly storm forced nine hospitals in New York and New Jersey to evacuate. Five hospitals remain closed three weeks after the storm made landfall near Atlantic City, N.J.

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TRENTON, N.J.—HHS' inspector general's office found during an audit that New Jersey wrongly claimed $50 million in federal Medicaid disproportionate-share hospital payments related to five hospitals during state fiscal years 2003-07. The hospitals did not qualify for the payments because they did not have the minimum number of Medicaid patients required of the DSH program, which is calculated through what is known as the Medicaid inpatient utilization rate, according to the inspector general's office report. That rate should be at a minimum of 1% and is calculated by dividing the number of inpatient days attributable to Medicaid-eligible patients into a hospital's total inpatient days for that year. The state partially agreed with the inspector general's office recommendation to pay back $50 million but contended that it owed only $3.5 million. It did not indicate agreement or disagreement with its recommendation that the state ensure all hospitals designated as DSH facilities meet eligibility requirements, according to the report.

LONG BEACH, N.Y.—Long Beach Medical Center last week was expected to open a satellite emergency department as the hospital worked to repair damage caused by superstorm Sandy. The mobile satellite emergency department was deployed to Long Beach Medical Center at the hospital's request, said hospital spokeswoman Sharon Player. Long Beach Medical Center evacuated before the storm made landfall Oct. 29, and flood damage was expected to keep the hospital closed for several weeks. The equipment, which arrived Nov. 19, will be staffed by Long Beach Medical Center physicians and employees. Training for the equipment was conducted by Hackensack University Medical Center, which owns and deployed the mobile units at the request of New Jersey officials. It includes two heated tents for triage and minor treatment, tents for respite and equipment, two trailers outfitted for treatment and a communications vehicle, said Dr. Joseph Feldman, chairman of emergency services at Hackensack University Medical Center. Tents were supplied by the New Jersey Emergency Medical Services Task Force, Feldman said. Patients who require hospitalization will be stabilized and transferred. Trailers, which are connected by a walkway, include critical-care beds, a field laboratory, a limited pharmacy and a portable digital X-ray. Nine hospitals were evacuated because of superstorm Sandy, and five hospitals had not yet reopened three weeks after the storm.

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