Smiley & Smiley, LLP

New York hospitals now responsible for hurricane preparation

When patients arrive at a hospital, either for planned care or as a result of emergency, they are owed a certain standard of care by those who will be treating them. As a result, hospital administrators and physicians alike are required to provide certain services, adhere to certain practices and prepare for certain events.

As Superstorm Sandy is not likely to be the last major hurricane to hit the eastern seaboard, hospitals have effectively been put on notice by this latest storm that New York healthcare providers must prepare for a new inevitability. Failure to do so could result in hospital negligence charges, should facilities be inadequately prepared when the next superstorm hits and patients suffer as a result.

New Yorkers were not prepared for Sandy's violence in part because Americans think of catastrophic hurricanes as phenomena largely confined to the southern portion of the Atlantic and Gulf regions. However, Sandy's destruction has placed new responsibility on New York hospitals to become adequately prepared for significant hurricanes.

The American public watched in awe as both NYU's Langone Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital were evacuated after their power sources failed during Sandy. In particular, images of nurses holding babies while manually providing them oxygen have become iconic reminders of what happens when hospitals cannot manage during storm systems.

Thankfully, the evacuations were largely successful and little patient harm occurred as a result of the relocation. However, future patients hospitalized during storms may not be so fortunate if hospitals do not anticipate and adequately prepare for significant weather events.

Source: New York Times, "Hospital Evacuations for Future Storms," Nov. 6, 2012

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