Montefiore Einstein Department of Medicine

Eye of the Storm

Satellite image provided by Nasa: hurricane Sandy churns off the east coast in the Atlantic ocean.
As Hurricane Sandy pummeled New York City last week, hobbling the transit system and leaving thousands homeless and millions without power, Montefiore Medical Center's hospitals, teaching clinics, and outpatient facilities remained open and operational. 

"Many of us have had our power disrupted, our roads blocked and our houses damaged, and all of us have worried about the safety of our friends and families. Despite this, we remained laser focused on the health and safety of those in our care," said Dr. Steven Safyer, Montefiore's President and Chief Executive Officer, in a letter to medical center staff.

Photo courtesy of Montefiore Medical Center
 Department of Medicine faculty physicians and physician assistants (PAs) made extraordinary effort to ensure that each patient received consistent care throughout the storm. Ten hospitalists and many PAs joined the hundreds of Montefiore staff who stayed overnight at the hospital on Monday. Hospitalist physicians and PAs were treated to a pizza and pasta dinner at the hospital as hurricane winds gusted outside. Later, the "overnighters", including physicians, PAs, nurses, and staff throughout the hospital, gathered in Cherkasky Auditorium to watch a movie, then spent a chilly night camped on cots and mattresses in the Tishman Learning Center. 

Road closure and transit shutdowns made it difficult for many hospitalists and PAs to come to work on Tuesday morning, but each of those who had promised to come showed up, and several came in on scheduled days off. Despite the fact that the Henry Hudson Parkway bridge was closed, a sympathetic police officer allowed Dr. William Southern, Chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine, to cross the bridge into Manhattan to pick up staff and drive them to work. 

"The efforts of our doctors and PAs at Moses and Weiler were truly inspiring," said Dr. Southern. "They stepped up to the plate in a big way, and we should be very proud of the whole group."

Efforts to ensure excellent care amidst the storm extended beyond the Division of Hospital Medicine: Division of General Internal Medicine faculty members were in the hospital both Monday and Tuesday to staff the inpatient teaching service. 

At Weiler, Dr. Jason Korcak remained at the hospital to cover the entire medical service overnight on Monday, part of the team's extraordinary effort to ensure that each patient was cared for by an attending physician and PA according to the usual standard of care. 

On Wednesday, after learning of the evacuation of Bellevue Hospital, Montefiore's team put together a plan to accept transfers on to the Medical Service, preparing to receive twenty patients at Moses and ten patients at Weiler who would be admitted directly to beds opened throughout the hospital. Four extra hospitalists (including Dr. Jeffrey Ceresnak, who had also stayed overnight on Monday) stayed late Wednesday night to triage and admit the transfer patients. 

Montefiore generates its own electricity at its main campus and runs a fleet using hybrid engines to reduce reliance on gasoline. In advance of the storm, a command center was set up and connected to the NYC Office of Emergency Management. Twenty patients were seamlessly transferred from NY Downtown Hospital. As the storm and its effects worsened, additional patients were taken in from NYU Langone, Bellevue Hospital and nursing homes across the region. Additionally, Montefiore Medical Center was the only institution in the area that kept its outpatient services open on both days, and residents and faculty kept the teaching clinics fully staffed.

Drs. Matthew BergerElizabeth BuattiGianni Carrozzi, Angelika Golebiowska, Elisabeth IhlerAthina Vassilakis, and Ginger Wey were commended by Dr. Julia Arnsten, Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine, for continuing to see patients and teach residents at the Adult Medical Practice (AMP) throughout the peak of the storm. Drs. Joseph Deluca, Viraj Patel, and Deborah Swiderski, who worked at the Montefiore's Comprehensive Family Care Center (CFCC), and Drs. Maria Duda, Elizabeth Harris, and Richard Murphy, who worked at the Comprehensive Health Care Center (CHCC), also made extraordinary effort to keep the clinics open and operational. All of the Internal Medicine residents who were scheduled to work in the outpatient clinics reported for work Monday and Tuesday, in many cases carpooling through the storm to ensure that they were there for their patients.

Montefiore Einstein's Scarsdale outpatient faculty practice site was closed Tuesday, October 30th due to power failure, but reopened the next day. The Blondell and Medical Arts Pavilion sites remained open for patients all week, due to special effort from many of the staff and management team members, who worked through the storm to ensure that patients received care. 

"Our tremendous organization, teamwork, collaboration, and preparation paid off," said Dr. Safyer. "The incredibly trying situation over the past week has shown that Montefiore not only provides ordinary care in an extraordinary way, but also is able to do the extraordinary in a way that makes it seem ordinary."

"I am immensely proud of the response of our faculty, staff, and house staff," said Dr. Victor Schuster, Chairman of the Department of Medicine. "As powerful as the hurricane was, so was their collective selflessness. The dedication they showed to our patients was never more evident."

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