With no power, residents flock to local Emergency Rooms

Peconic Bay Medical Center is at capacity in the days following Hurricane Sandy as power outages and clean-up related injuries have brought many locals to the hospital.

Peconic Bay CEO Andy Mitchell said many people are visiting the emergency room because they can’t operate their electronic medical support equipment.  Mr. Mitchell also said the ER has been busy with people being treated for chain saw lacerations and heart attacks suffered while cleaning their yards.

“We filled up very quickly,” Mr. Mitchell said of patients visits. “We were an island of light in a sea of darkness for the next two days.”

The hospital has prolonged some discharges in order to make sure patients aren’t traveling on dangerous roads or returning to unsafe living conditions. There were about eight people from the shelter at Riverhead High School who were transported to the hospital Tuesday night after the shelter lost power.

The hospital lost power at around 4 p.m. Monday and it was restored by 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Mr. Mitchell said. But in between that time, the hospital had nearly five megawatts of emergency power running.

Mr. Mitchell described LIPA’s assistance throughout the storm as “amazing” because of its swiftness to restore the hospital’s power feeds on Route 58 and on Roanoke Avenue.

Things were back to normal as of yesterday, he said, and several robotic surgeries have even been completed.

Eileen Solomon, a spokeswoman for Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport, said there was also an uptick in ER visits there.

ELIH maintained power and kept its emergency room open throughout the storm. The hospital ran on a generator for just three hours overnight Tuesday, Ms. Solomon said.

On Monday night, ELIH started to evacuate patients and sent them to either Peconic Bay Medical Center or Stony Brook University Medical Center. Ms. Solomon said North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health Centers also helped transport patients prior to the storm.

ELIH’s drug and alcohol rehab patients went to Peconic Landing Monday evening and stayed there overnight with hospital staff. All 46 ELIH patients that were evacuated started returning to the hospital Tuesday and Wednesday, she said.

“It went very smoothly,” Ms. Solomon said of the evacuation process. “Everyone worked together and pulled through … [It’s] business as usual now.”

Mr. Mitchell also praised his employees for their hard work, putting in long hours and camping out at the facility through the duration of the storm. He said a decision was made to have all three shifts arrive at the hospital by Monday afternoon.

Mr. Mitchell said the hospital is establishing a PBMC Employee Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund in order to assist employees whose properties were damaged by the storm while they were working. He said hospital board members will match donations made by community members.

“Our staff was absolutely remarkable,” he said. “We had hundreds and hundreds of employees that put patient care ahead of their own families.”

Mr. Mitchell said he believes the volume of patients will begin to decrease as more power is restored in residential areas.

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