Hospitals Brace for Blizzard

JANUARY 26, 2015
Gale Scott and Jared Kaltwasser
As a blizzard predicted to break snowfall records bears down upon the Northeast,area hospitals and physicians are shifting into disaster-planning mode.

With the worst of the blizzard expected to hit coastal New England, Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker has declared a state of emergency and instituted a travel ban that will take effect at midnight. Shriner’s Hospital in Boston canceled elective procedures and clinic visits.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo opened state emergency operations centers and stationed National Guard troops throughout the state.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency at noon Monday, closing state offices and urging motorists to stay off the roads. In a news conference this afternoon, he said the state’s emergency workers and transportation department can handle the storm.
“For better or worse, we know how to deal with these situations,” he said.

At the North Shore-LIJ health system, a spokesman said the system has cancelled all elective surgeries for Tuesday, setting up beds for employees to stay overnight, and advising nurses and doctors on duty tonight to come in early. Corporate offices and ambulatory care facilities in the system will be closed.
“We’re fully staffed and we’re ready,” he said. Long Island is expected to get 2 feet of snow, according to the National Weather Service.

The New York State Department of Health advised hospitals to bring in extra staff, make sure they have adequate supplies to feed and house them, and that all facilities be certain their emergency power systems are ready. Transportation is likely to be a major problem, with mass transit disruptions predicted resulting in caregivers having trouble getting to work.

Prolonged power outages are likely, officials warned.

A North Shore LIJ system  spokesman said it is likely the Long Island Expressway—the main artery that runs from Queens to the eastern tip of the island--could be shut down.
That would prevent motorists from getting stranded but could make it still harder for hospital workers to get to work.
New York hospitals are linked to emergency officials through the statewide Health Emergency Response Data System, which enables quick communication and help for local emergencies.

In New Jersey a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Hospital Association said member facilities began emergency preparations over the weekend.
 “One thing you want to do if you’re going to be entering a pretty major storm is to reduce the census at the hospital,” she said. Hospitals began discharging such patients Saturday, she said.
In many cases, she said that involved physicians making their rounds at earlier times to prioritize patients who were ready to be discharged.

Hospitals' preparations also include checking inventories of emergency supplies, fuel, and emergency generators—lessons learned from Super Storm Sandy in 2012 when many hospitals lost power for days, the spokeswoman said.

That experience appeared to be on Gov. Christie’s mind as well. “We all feel like we know how to do this,” he said. “This is going to be a lot of snow, no matter how you add it up. So we’re gonna be challenged, but we feel like we’re prepared and ready,” he said at the news conference. 

Related Coverage >>>
Copyright© MD Magazine 2006-2020 Intellisphere, LLC. All Rights Reserved.