Lack of emergency preparedness in New York hospitals being examined

New York — The recent hurricane storm that hit the New York and New Jersey region wreaked havoc on the local hospitals, causing several to evacuate all of their patients. Patient advocates are urging hospital administrators and doctors to spend more time and money preparing for the safety of their patients in times of emergencies like this. They worry about the potential for medical errors and wrongful deaths or injuries when evacuating an entire hospital. Emergency planning specialists say that some of the hospitals were not properly equipped for hurricane Sandy’s weather and subsequent dangerous conditions that arose. They worry that hospital officials could have foreseen some of the dangers, such as flooding of the emergency generator systems, but chose to ignore those dangers in order to save money. Some point out that bad weather should be expected to cause flooding and therefore placing generators in basements is simply negligent. One hospital chose to stay open but stopped admitting new patients just before the storm. That same hospital closed its doors for hurricane Irene though and this left some observers wondering why. Many stranded patients with serious injuries or illnesses had to be carried or walk down the stairs. Several officials have also explained that communication failures were widespread and hospitals had not ensured proper emergency backups, for example with radios. Receiving hospitals for the displaced patients noted that they were sometimes sent patients that they knew little to nothing about in advance. The lack of proper communication can easily lead to improper or poor healthcare and injury to the victim according to a medical malpractice lawyer. The hospitals were reportedly able to evacuate all of their patients to other New York City hospitals without any deaths. However, some patients reported having to walk many flights of stairs on their own to awaiting ambulances, even one patient who had just undergone open heart surgery. Some complained that it seemed the hospitals had not learned the valuable lessons that they should have after the September 11th terrorist attacks and Hurricane Irene that hit the area only a year ago. The question that now remains is whether or not the hospital boards of directors and administrators will take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of their patients during future storms. Ongoing coverage of the emergency closure of New York City hospitals can be found here.

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