Q&A: NJ Health System CEO's Post-Sandy Appraisal

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , November 1, 2012

HLM: What challenges did the storm present?

"A sister hospital, Palisades Medical Center which is located a few miles from here on the Hudson River, started to flood mid-day Monday. By Monday evening they had to evacuate the facility, which was led by the National Guard. The evacuation was completed by about 9 a.m. Tuesday. We received and treated 60 patients from the evacuation; 43 remain here and 17 were sent to an affiliate hospital.

That was a real challenge for us because the patients came over with some of the caregivers from Palisades, but it was in the middle of the night and early morning and we were already pretty full.

We had to make arrangements where we could on where we could take care of them appropriately. Our care team came up with a great contingency plan. We were able to empty out our observation unit and relocate them to another area where we could make room for the patients from Palisades."

HLM: Given Palisades' proximity to the Hudson, did you already have a contingency plan for their evacuation?

"They had a similar evacuation, though not quite as big last year when a storm hit one of their clinical buildings. So they were on the radar screen and with the predictions of storm surge and where the storm was hitting and the impact it would have on the Hudson River, we definitely were in close communication with them.

On Monday night when they decided to evacuate, their CEO called me directly and said they were going to put the evacuation plan into effect. We worked all night long on it."

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