Peconic Bay set to operate for days without power, supplies

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.

Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead could be fully operational for several days during and after Hurricane Irene, even if it’s cut off from power and supplies, hospital president and CEO Andrew Mitchell said Friday — a day before the storm was expected to start battering Long Island.

The Route 58 hospital has enough food, medication and surgical supplies to last 10 days, he said.

It also had five diesel-powered generators on hand Friday, and 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel on site and a diesel tanker truck with another 3,000 gallons was expected to arrive Saturday morning. That’s good enough to keep the hospital air-conditioned and everything else powered for a week, Mr. Mitchell said.

The hospital will be operating with “full-service care for our patients and our community,” he said. “We will be able to provide uninterrupted, full clinical services to our patient and community.”

One of the lessons the industry learned from Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast in 2005, was to keep hospitals air-conditioned to prevent patients from overheating and becoming dehydrated, he said.

And that takes a lot of power, which is why the hospital stockpiled more diesel fuel then anywhere else in town, Mr. Mitchell said.

A portable, 1 million-kilowatt generator will keep the hospital cool. Another will operate solely to keep the Kanas surgical wing up and running.

The hospital on Friday took in 20 patients after two hospitals on the South Shore were evacuated, Mr. Mitchell said. Peconic Bay is now near full capacity already but will be setting cots up in offices and elsewhere.

Staffers are being asked to work 12-hours shifts in anticipation for a possible swell in patients, he said.