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Health Care Facility Evacuations Caused By Sandy Discussed By City Council

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TWC News: Health Care Facility Evacuations Caused By Sandy Discussed By City Council
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The way city and hospital officials handled the evacuation of health care facilities because of Hurricane Sandy was taken up by the City Council Thursday, and one complaint that was brought up was that the evacuations happened after the storm hit. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, there were evacuations at medical facilities that occurred in the dark. That's because before the storm, nursing homes were not included in the city's evacuation order.

Nursing homes were told to ride it out. Then the power went out. The surge destroyed buildings and generators.

It was only in the days following the storm that the elderly and frail were sent to other facilities or city shelters.

"I wish that they told us to evacuate, only because you wouldn't have had the residents sitting and riding the storm out and going through that trauma, not having heat, not having power and remaining in the building for a day or two after the fact," said Michael Schreiber of Sea Crest Health Care Center.

It's a fact that the City Council thinks could have been avoided.

"There was no real provision to really take care of these seniors," said Manhattan Councilwoman Margaret Chin.

"The evacuation later was far more chaotic, far more difficult and far more of an extreme situation," said Brooklyn Councilman David Greenfield.

It was the subject of a hearing on Thursday. The city's health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, was playing defense.

"There is a risk to evacuating pre-storm. There is a risk to evacuating post-storm," Farley said. "And decisions need to be made when you want to evacuate during times of great uncertainty."

The same position came from the city's health and hospitals corporation, which dealt with its own evacuation when generators failed at Bellevue Hospital.

"There are real risks to transporting patients unnecessarily in an evacuation context, and that has to be factored in," said Alan Aviles of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.

Under all of these circumstances, Farley said there was no loss of life at the city's health facilities.

"I'm not convinced that in the end, this was worse than what would have been done had a large-scale evacuation been ordered," Farley said.

The mayor's office and the Department of Health are reviewing the city's response to Hurricane Sandy. That's on top of long-term recommendations for the city's recovery that City Hall will be releasing this spring.

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