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Hundreds evacuated after power fails at NY hospital

At least 215 patients had to be evacuated from NYU Medical Center when the backup generator failed. NBC's Rehema Ellis reports.

Power went out at a major New York hospital Monday night, just at the height of superstorm Sandy’s worst winds and flooding, forcing staff to evacuate at least 215 patients, including many who were critically ill.

A failed back-up generator forced NYU Langone Medical Center to send 93 patients to hospitals in the North Shore-LIJ health system, in emergency transfers one spokesman described as “traumatic.”

“They were literally carrying them down the stairs,” said Terry Lynam, spokesman for the North Shore-LIJ system.

Another 19 NYU patients, presumably cancer patients, went to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, said Chris Hickey, a hospital spokeswoman.

Critically ill patients, including babies, from the NYU Langone neonatal and pediatric intensive care units went to New York Presbyterian Hospital at both the Weill-Cornell and Washington Heights campuses, said spokeswoman Kathy Robinson.

AT NYU Langone, the hospital’s telephone service, email and website were all down Tuesday morning.

“Due to the severity of Hurricane Sandy and the higher than expected storm surge, we are in the process  of transferring approximately 215 patients within the medical center to nearby facilities,” the hospital said in a statement Monday.

Patients who were transferred from one hospital to another amid the howling storm were understandably shaken by the ordeal, said Lynam. He said social workers were being made available to patients who needed counseling or other assistance Tuesday.

“We are recognizing that this was obviously a traumatic incident,” Lynam said.

Mount Sinai Medical Center also joined in efforts to evacuate patients, the hospital said in a statement.

Across the city, other hospitals also opened their doors to evacuated patients. At St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, Dr. Ernest Patti said hospital officials were in discussions with at least two other hospitals to accept patients after back-up power systems failed.

“We’re fortunate. We sit up on a high hill. We didn’t drown in the flooding,” said Patti, senior attending physician of emergency medicine. 

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