As construction crews strip damp wallboard from hospital hallways, engineers and executives say they will raise or add barriers and relocate essential systems and consider how to build in more redundancy for essential services—from telephones to power supply—to better survive the next powerful storm.
“Getting everything out of the basement would be ideal,” said Mark Healey, director of facilities and engineering for the Long Beach Medical Center, which is on a barrier island alongside Long Island.
Sandy flooded Long Beach Medical Center's basement—home to clinics, its kitchen and sterile supplies, as well as essential electrical and boiler equipment—with 10 feet of water. Groundwater continued to seep into a subbasement and basement rooms holding mechanical equipment more than four weeks after the storm.
In November, Long Beach Medical Center opened a temporary emergency room in heated tents and trailers. Last week, the emergency room was replaced with a mobile primary-care clinic.
“This was an extraordinary event,” with damage unlike anything seen in his 36 years with the hospital, Melzer said. “So we will prepare for an event such as this going forward, but this was just an extraordinary event.”
The combined cost of repairs to the hospital and other hospital property and remediation for future storms could total $21.2 million, said Barry Stern, chief financial officer for Long Beach Medical Center. Meanwhile, lost revenue from the hospital and its nursing home totals roughly $1.85 million a week. The hospital's and nursing home's flood insurance is limited to $1 million combined, and its business interruption insurance will provide another $1 million. The hospital will rely on state aid and relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “We didn't really have the kind of reserves that would allow us to weather this storm on our own,” Stern said.
Officials with other hospitals damaged by the storm have announced similar rebuilding plans.
An overflowing East River filled the subbasement of the Veterans Affairs Department's Manhattan hospital, and floodwaters rose higher than 5 feet in the basement, destroying its electrical equipment and fire-safety system. It's unclear when the hospital, which is in an area designated as most vulnerable to flooding, will reopen; its outpatient services are not expected to resume until March.
Martina Parauda, director of the VA New York Harbor Health Care System, said the hospital will move electrical switch gear, medical gases and vacuums. “Whatever can be moved up will be moved up,” she said. Plans under way before the storm to build a flood wall may need to be revised and raised, she said. “It sounds pretty crazy in Manhattan that we would need a flood wall, but we are an island,” Parauda said.
Officials at NYU Langone Medical Center, which lost power in the hours after the storm reached New Jersey and was forced to evacuate, declined an interview request. NYU Langone's backup power failed, forcing workers at the Manhattan hospital to carry patients down dark stairwells to empty the building after water breached fuel tanks and triggered sensors to shut down fuel pumps that feed generators, an initial analysis of the failure showed. The 786-bed hospital said in early November that an outside expert would review the conclusions. Officials said last week that they expect the hospital to begin readmitting patients, though not fully, by the end of the month with “nearly all services” available a month later. The hospital has been able to resume some outpatient services.
At Bellevue Hospital, floodwater that rushed into the hospital's basement dislodged elevator doors and knocked out electricity to pumps that deliver fuel to the 788-bed hospital's generators, which are on the 13th floor. Generators continued to operate with fuel hauled up stairs by employees and the U.S. National Guard.