Nursing Homes, Hospitals Agree
The seventeen nursing homes, Peninsula Hospital Center and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital signed the agreement in the wake of September 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina and a gas leak at the Ocean Park Nursing Home last year that necessitated the evacuation of its patients. The Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center is not involved because it has no patient beds.
“All of the health facilities in Rockaway are in the same boat,” says Patrick Clark, the administrator of the Park Nursing Home on Beach 115 Street and one of the prime movers of the agreement. “While most people think of evacuation in terms of hurricanes, this has nothing to do with a peninsula-wide hurricane emergency. We are talking about things like a structural collapse, fires, localized flooding, gas leaks and the like.”
The agreement mandates that each of the 19 signatories designate a “surge capacity,” the number of patients it can take above its normal capacity in case of a disaster at another facility.
“The bottom line is that we would rather the patients forced to evacuate one of the homes go to another home where they can be properly taken care of rather than to a high school gymnasium somewhere.”
The plan includes transportation companies such as private ambulance companies and vans. Those companies would be put on standby and would respond to an emergency calls to move the patients to other facilities.
Clark admits that evacuating all of the nursing homes and hospitals in advance of a Hurricane Katrina type emergency is another story.
“The Mayor, the Office of Emergency Management and the Department of Health have promised that no patient would be left behind in that kind of [hurricane] emergency,” Clark says. “That, however, means moving 3,500 nursing home patients before the storm strikes, along with the nurses and aids to take care of them.”
Clark says that such a move would take more coordinated planning and is not part of the agreement signed this week.