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NYU Hospital Evacuated After Generator Failure, Patients At Other NYC Hospitals Relocated (UPDATE)

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NYU HOSPITAL EVACUATION
Medical workers assist a patient into an ambulance during an evacuation of New York University Tisch Hospital, after its backup generator failed when the power was knocked out by a superstorm, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in New York. Dozens of ambulances lined up outside NYU Tisch Hospital on Monday night as doctors and nurses began the slow process of taking people out. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) | AP

Details are still emerging about the evacuation of New York University's Langone Medical Center, the sprawling hospital complex in Manhattan, following the failure of both its main and backup power generators Monday night.

Lorinda Klein, a spokeswoman from NYU who was not on the scene, told The Huffington Post that staff and emergency personnel were continuing to evacuate patients on Tuesday morning, and that they were “hoping” to be finished by noon.

“The evacuation continued all night,” Klein said. “It was very slow and methodical.” She described staff on the scene as “absolutely exhausted.”

Late Monday, the hospital issued a short statement announcing the transfer of approximately 215 patients to nearby facilities. Klein confirmed that patients were being transferred to Lenox Hill, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Mount Sinai and New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospitals. CBS News is reporting that among the patients, 20 were newborns in the intensive care unit.

Earlier on Monday, NYU said it had no plans to evacuate Langone, but that all non-emergency surgeries and procedures were cancelled for Monday and Tuesday. The hospital had also requested that patients be diverted to other emergency departments when possible.

A nurse at the hospital, who spoke to The Huffington Post on the condition of anonymity, said that when she started her shift at 8 p.m. on Monday, the computers on her floor were out and the power outlets were not working, but the lights were still on. Around midnight, she said, the power went out. Patients were given flashlights in their rooms and seemed generally calm, she said, while hospital staff worked with medical students, volunteers and rescue workers to move patients using “med sleds” -- a process she said took about 15 minutes per patient.

“We weren’t really told anything from higher hospital administration,” the nurse said. “A doctor just came down and said, ‘Your floor is next.’ We started working on putting together the sleds, but we were playing it by ear.”

A woman who volunteered to help with the move told HuffPost that no one asked why the hospital, which was evacuated prior to Hurricane Irene in 2011, had not been evacuated earlier.

“I think we were all wondering why this happened, but at the same time, we knew we had to focus on what was important at the time,” the woman, who requested anonymity, said. “No one was asking questions. There was no time for that.”

In a press conference Tuesday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg confirmed the hospital's generators had failed, saying, “It doesn’t matter why it happened,“ except to make sure it doesn't happen again.

“I don’t know why we waited so long to evacuate,” the NYU nurse said. “Everything was okay in terms of people working together, and us having enough staff to complete the transfer. But it seems like we waited too long, especially with all the news we had about the storm."

Other hospitals in New York City are relocating patients Tuesday morning. Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn is moving about 180 patients to other facilities, Ian Michaels, a spokesman for the New York Health and Hospitals Corp., told HuffPost.

The hospital lost power Monday night and its backup generators failed. Although one generator is back online, authorities decided earlier this morning to relocate all patients left in the hospital, Michaels said.

The hospital has no telephone service and surrounding roads are impassable. Seven patients on ventilators already have been moved to other hospitals. The city agency is still working out where to send the rest of the patients.

"Will be be able to locate these beds as easy as we would like? Probably not," Michaels said. "It's kind of a precarious situation."

Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan remains open Tuesday, despite late-night reports that an evacuation was imminent, Michaels said. The hospital suffered flood damage in its basement but its backup generators never failed. Twenty patients using ventilators were moved to other hospitals on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the New York State Department of Health said authorities are still working to determine the condition of hospitals and other health care facilities across the rest of New York state.

UPDATE: 2:15 p.m. -- The evacuation of NYU's Langone Medical Center is complete. According to a hospital statement released just after noon on Tuesday, "300 patients were safely transferred from NYU Langone Medical Center to nearby hospitals able to provide the appropriate level of care."

"At this time, we are focusing on assessing the full extent of the storm's impact on all of our patient care, research and education facilities," the statement continued. "We will continue to provide updates as we learn more."

UPDATE: 3:20 p.m. -- Mayor Bloomberg confirmed during an address Tuesday afternoon that the Coney Island Hospital evacuation was complete.

UPDATE:: 4:10 p.m. -- The NYU hospital's backup power generators are outdated and the hospital's board was aware of the problem, Goldman Sachs Group President Gary Cohn, a trustee at the hospital, said on Bloomberg TV Tuesday.

“It’s in a low-lying flood area on the East River where they tend to need to be evacuated,” Cohn told Bloomberg. “The infrastructure at NYU is somewhat old.”

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