Earlier this week, NY1 reported about the high number of deaths in the nursing home population following evacuations because of Hurricane Sandy. Now, one of the facilities affected is storm fitted to better protect its residents, and hopefully keep them from having to be moved. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
After extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy, Sea Crest Health Care Center reopened in May.
The waterfront nursing home is now heavily fortified, as it underwent millions of dollars in upgrades to withstand a future storm. Cinder blocks now fill the space where glass doors and windows shattered, and there are sliding steel plates that seal all up all vents. The facilities manager says the building can now block out up to eight feet of water.
Inside, everything in the basement was replaced including the elevator systems, heaters and boilers, washers and dryers and all kitchen appliances.
"We changed everything. All the wires. All the transformers," said Felix Flobil, the facility director at Sea Crest Health Care Center. "Whatever was in there is brand new."
The city ordered the nursing home to ride out Sandy rather than risk moving fragile patients, but the damage was so severe that residents were left for three days without electricity and heat. When it became clear patients could not stay any longer, FEMA teams were called in to bring evacuate them, as well as the residents of Shore View in Brighton Beach, another nursing home run by director Michael Schrieber.
"Getting the resources for transportation to evacuate patients is a lot. You have 70 percent of our population is wheelchair bound, which requires specialized, whether it be an ambulette or an ambulance that takes the residents out, their resources are few and far between."
Within three months, a startling number of those patients were dead - 125 out of 611. Health experts say they've seen a similar spike in nursing home evacuee deaths after other hurricanes like Katrina.
The city said it knew the move was risky, so it chose not to evacuate every nursing home that was potentially in harm's way.
"Nobody died during the evacuation," said Samantha Levine, the city's deputy press secretary. "Additionally, we would have needed to evacuate double the number had we done so at the beginning."
Sea Crest said that at least now, their building is secure.