News: Storm displaces patients, hospital and public health service open doors
U.S. Navy story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicholas S. Tenorio
NEW YORK – The Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn opened their doors to more than 90 nursing home patients who were displaced by Hurricane Sandy.
Three area nursing homes sustained major damage when super storm Sandy hit New York, Oct. 29, forcing residents to find shelter elsewhere.
“The damaged nursing homes were identified and the New York Public Health Department asked us to step in,” said Lt. Michael Muni, a Public Information Officer at the United States Public Health Service.
“This is the first time we set up a federal medical shelter within a hospital environment,” said Capt. Calvin Edwards, Team Commander of PHS Rapid Deployment Force 2. “Normally it’s a shelter of opportunity. That would be a gym floor, a convention center or some other place that has heat and lighting and a wide open space.”
PHS is made up of 6,600 Commissioned Corps officers who stay on call to respond to public health needs.
“Shortly after the storm hit we knew the community was impacted significantly, and fortunately the hospital had minimal damage,” said Mark Toney, president and CEO of Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center. “Our senior management team thought that we should be opening our doors to serve the community. We had the capacity and we wanted to open it up.”
“Some of the patients were transferred from shelters where they were sleeping in their wheelchairs,” said Toney.
Brookdale faced the challenge of readying two floors that had been closed for many years, said Toney.
“It had become the storage area for the hospital,” said Toney. “Within a 48-hour period, we actually brought all our employees together and opened up a floor and a half of the hospital, giving us 100 extra beds.”
When the first patients arrived, the paint was still drying on some of the walls, said Muni.
PHS medical professionals are providing all the medical and administrative support for the nursing home patients.
“About half the patients need 100 percent care with the activities of daily living,” said Edwards. “There are also some mental health issues that we see folks have. Those are the big things.”
“We are really happy to be able to serve,” said Edwards. “None of us do this full time. We have our regular active duty job, plus we come do this. We come from all medical disciplines, and then we come together as a team to provide services to folks.”