Nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy hit, all of the city-run hospitals are fully operational, but there are still vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. Health Reporter Erin Billups filed the following report.
Hurricane Sandy pushed the East River down loading ramps into Bellevue Hospital.
"The water filled up first the roadway and then came onto the cellar level," Bellevue Hospital Executive Director Steve Alexander said. "It took 45 minutes to come in and fill the entire basement of 182,000 square feet, and it took us about five days to pump that water out."
Bellevue, like NYU Langone Medical Center, Manhattan Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Coney Island Hospital, was forced to evacuate patients that night.
During the past year, Bellevue has managed to get operations back to where they need to be. Several electrical switch rooms located in the basement were elevated. The basement was restored and they've installed flood barriers at the loading ramps.
Coney Island Hospital is not at 100 percent. The MRI and CAT scan services are still located outside in mobile units.
"Coney Island Hospital sustained tremendous damage, not only to systems in the basement, but to the first floor of the hospital," New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation President Alan Aviles, said. "That's where they required us to rebuild significant parts."
That includes the emergency department, which is up and running, but the hospital is still waiting for state approval to reopen the psychiatric, emergency and pediatric inpatient units. Approval is expected in November.
The hospital remains vulnerable.
"A similar storm would wipe out the emergency department, that entire first floor again, so we have temporary barriers in place to protect proportions of that campus," Aviles said. But we need a bigger solution there. Probably the elevation of the entire emergency room department, essentially the building of a new building."
Coney Island Hospital's electrical equipment has been elevated outside.
Aviles said the cost of Hurricane Sandy repairs, response and long-term flood protection needed at all city hospitals will exceed $800 million. Those mitigation projects will not begin until they're sure the Federal Emergency Management Agency will foot the bill.
"FEMA has to agree with us that what we believe is necessary, in fact, is the most cost-effective way to protect the facility," Aviles said.
Aviles said the city has already begun the funding request process.