One of the city's premier public hospitals is completely back in business after being completely shut down in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.
Thursday looked like a routine day outside Bellevue Hospital. It was a stark contrast from October 31, when the hundreds of patients being treated there had to be evacuated, some of them carried down the stairs.
Hurricane Sandy had flooded the basement with millions of gallons of water, cutting off power and damaging other equipment critical to running the facility.
"Within just a couple of days after that, the hospital was completely empty," said Dr. Nate Link, medical director at Bellevue Hospital. "It was a depressing feeling to have all the wards closed, the lights out."
But Bellevue staff had something to celebrate Thursday, when it was announced that Bellevue has fully reopened, admitting inpatients for the first time since the evacuation.
"Walking through the hallways of the hospital and being in the atrium, seeing my staff in the Emergency Department, everyone has a huge smile on their face," said Dr. Chris McStay, chief of emergency services at Bellevue Hospital. "They're here, we're ready, and we want the patients to come so we can care for them and get back to normal."
That includes providing Level One trauma services, caring for the most critically injured patients.
Restoration of hospital services has been gradual, with other city and private hospitals pitching in.
"There were some things that we didn't have, and when we needed those things and needed inpatient hospital beds and other things, those hospitals really stepped it up and helped us out," McStay said.
It was a major challenge for Bellevue to get to this day. But there is another challenge, and that is to prepare for future storms like Hurricane Sandy.
"A lot of our strategies are taking a look at those systems and infrastructure that's located in the basement, either protecting it in place or relocating it to higher ground," said Michael Rawlings, associate executive director of facilities management at Bellevue Hospital.
"These are things that we're going to have to do," said Steven Alexander, chief operating officer at Bellevue Hospital. "They're going to require funding and continued work and dedication."
Repairs and retrofitting are expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars in all. But Alexander said the first phase is under their belt, and that was to get the hospital running again.