NEW YORK (AP) — Flood damage at Bellevue Hospital is so extensive and severe that a full evacuation of patients was necessary, the president of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation said Wednesday, adding that the facility would be "doing very well" if it's able to reopen in even two or three weeks.
The hospital had moved out more than 400 patients by Wednesday evening and hoped to have the remaining 300 evacuated by noon Thursday, HHC President Alan Aviles said.
Bellevue lost power during Monday night's massive storm and had been operating on backup generators since then. The National Guard helped carry some of the patients in more serious condition down as many as 18 flights of stairs, and on Wednesday, it became clear that the damage was so much that all of the patients needed out, Aviles said.
The "damage was so extensive that we will be unable to adequately power this building," Aviles said.
Water from the East River poured into the hospital's basement during the storm, rendering the water pumps as well as the fuel pumps that power the backup generators on a higher floor inoperable, Aviles said. Fuel had to be taken to the generators in a bucket-brigade endeavor because the elevators weren't working.
Even after removing 17 million gallons, there was still 2 ½ feet of water in the basement, he said.
Many hallways and rooms were dark and key medical equipment had been knocked out. Patients had to be taken out, floor-by-floor, via the stairs.
The hospital discharged what patients it could and reached out to other facilities around the city to find beds for the rest. Among Bellevue's patients were 60 people in the city's correctional system, and Aviles said Bellevue was working with the Department of Correction to find appropriate placement for them.
He said patients' families would be informed where their loved ones were being moved.
Aviles said it would still be some time before officials could fully assess the damage, but that "it is very clear to us even now, that if we can get this hospital back in operation in two or three weeks, then we will be doing very well."
He said Bellevue, which he said was the longest-operating hospital in the country, had never experienced anything like this.
"Irene did not come close to creating a problem," he said, referring to last year's storm. He said the hospital sits about 20 feet above sea level, so "although we certainly prepared for the possibility, it seemed like it was relatively remote given" all of the projections about how high the storm surge would go.