Hurricane-proofing New York City’s Hospitals

October 30, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Two months after Hurricane Sandy flooded many of the city’s waterfront hospitals, reporter Rick Karr looked at what happened when the lights went out.  Close to a year after the storm, the hospitals are up and running again.  Karr spoke with physician and journalist Sheri Fink, whose reporting about New Orleans’ hospitals after Hurricane Katrina won her a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting and led to her recent bestseller, “Five Days After Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital,” for an update.

“What are we going to do in the meantime if we have another storm?” she asked.

According to Fink, New York City’s hospitals won’t be completely hardened against future storms until 2030.  In the interim, city and state officials along with hospital administrators are establishing precautionary protocol, such as patient-tracking wristbands.

Hospitals received millions of dollars from FEMA to cover the recovery costs.  Some of the funds have been allocated for projects designed to protect hospital facilities and infrastructure from future storms, like raising electrical systems out of flood-prone areas and building better seawalls.

But Fink expressed concern that disaster aid is not distributed until after a storm hits.

“[I]t’s sort of an awful irony that you would need an actual disaster to happen before some of the funding might be available to help these improvements be made,” said Fink.

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