Patrick Bernat: Heroes at Work in New York City

Imagine for a moment that your mother, your brother, or your child is very ill and in the hospital. Then a deadly storm strikes—and you learn through the local media that the storm has compromised the safety of the hospital, and that its patients are being evacuated to other hospitals in the area. Only you don’t know which hospital your loved one is being sent to. You don’t even know whether your loved one will make it out of the original hospital safely. And then suddenly—as a result of the storm–you lose power at home.

You call the original hospital to try to get more information, and you just get a busy signal. But eventually, you receive a call from a staff person at another hospital, who tells you that your loved one is safe and sound, and has been admitted to the hospital this staff person is calling from.

Imagine the feeling of relief and joy to know that your loved one was not only safely whisked away from a hospital that was in peril, but that they are now safe and in good hands at a different hospital.

Amazingly, this and similar stories played out in New York City as Hurricane Sandy ripped through the Northeast, forcing New York University Langone Medical Center to evacuate some 300 patients. With power lost in the hospital—and thus no elevators to use—staff brought the facility’s patients down flights of stairs and out of harm’s way.

And the various hospitals receiving these patients didn’t miss a beat—incorporating these new patients into their workflow, and even taking the time to contact worried people to notify them of their loved ones’ whereabouts. One element of this struck me the most: Hospitals that may ordinarily see each other as competitors worked together for the safety of patients. We’re talking about life-saving cooperation under extreme duress.

As a father, I’m trying to imagine getting that phone call from a hospital telling me that they have my son, and that he’s OK after being evacuated from his original hospital. What an indescribable feeling. What a range of emotions.

There are so many people involved in that real-life drama who acted heroically behind the scenes—most of whom we’ll never even know about. It’s a really nice reminder though that these are some of the professionals we here at AAMI serve. People who on any given day could be called upon to not only do a good job, but to be a hero.

For more, here’s a link to an AP story about the evacuation.

Patrick Bernat

Director, Healthcare Technology Management


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