NY Army Nat'l Guard evacuates patients at Bel
NY Army Nat'l Guard evacuates patients at Bel Reuters

Another New York hospital has been forced to evacuate its patients due to damage from Hurricane Sandy.

The city's venerable Bellevue Hospital announced Wednesday it had begun a “full evacuation to safely transfer all patients to appropriate healthcare facilities.” Some 500 patients are involved in the transfer, with at least 100 others who didn't require critical care having been discharged home.

The hospital, located at the southern end of Manhattan on First Avenue and 27th Street, contacted families to let them know about their loved ones. Families who could not be reached were notified through media to call the 311 hotline with inquiries about patients. "Hundreds of staff are on duty to help with the transfer,” the hospital said in a statement posted on the NYC Health and Hospital Corporation's (HHC) website. “Hospital and Emergency Room will remain closed until further notice.” 

Associated with New York University's School of Medicine, Bellevue's emergency room was a central spot for treatment during and after the "9/11" Al Qaeda attack on the city's World Trade Center in 2001, and is certified as a Level 1 Trauma Center. It is also the hospital which carried out the forensic psychiatric evaluation of Levi Aron, convicted of murdering 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky in Brooklyn last summer.

By Wednesday, medical staff had spent two days in dim lights hiking as far as the 17th floor. Journalists were told at a news conference Wednesday night that patients were being carried down the stairs from the highest floor, the 18th, by New York Army National Guard officers who had also helped to bring fuel for the hospital's generator up to the roof, NYC HHC President Alan Aviles said.

Despite losing power when Hurricane Sandy hit on Monday, the hospital had managed to stay open using its emergency generator on the roof, refueled by the soldiers carrying five-gallon fuel jugs up 13 floors to keep the 1,000-gallon tank filled. But the decision to evacuate was finally made and soldiers were called out to help move the hospital's patients after millions of gallons of water were discovered in the basement, Aviles added.

Bellevue was not the only hospital whose generators failed due to overload and flooding. NYU Medical Center evacuated more than 300 patients at the start of Hurricane Sandy on Monday. Dozens were in critical condition. The hospital's neonatal intensive care unit evacuated 20 tiny infants on battery-operated respirators at the height of the hurricane. Medical staff were seen carrying the babies carefully down the stairs, and rushing them into ambulances waiting in pounding rain.

On Tuesday, Brooklyn's Coney Island Hospital, located near the historic Coney Island neighborhood in a low-lying area less than a mile from the water's edge, soon followed. Hundreds of patients were relocated to area hospitals as the hospital's hurricane-swamped generator failed, and corridors flooded.