NEW YORK - Evoking harrowing memories of Hurricane Katrina, nearly 300 patients were evacuated floor by floor from a premiere hospital that lost generator power at the height of superstorm Sandy.
Rescuers and staff at New York University Langone Medical Center, some making 10 to 15 trips down darkened stairwells, began their mission Monday night, the youngest and sickest first, finishing about 15 hours later.
Among the first out were 20 babies in neonatal intensive care, some on battery-powered respirators.
"Everyone here is a hero," Dr. Bernard Birnbaum, a senior vice president at Tisch Hospital, the flagship at NYU, told exhausted crews as he released all but essential employees late Tuesday morning. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."
More than two dozen ambulances from around the city lined up around the lower Manhattan block to transport the sick to Mount Sinai Hospital, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, St. Luke's Hospital, New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Long Island Jewish Hospital.
Meanwhile, other New York hospitals canceled outpatient appointments and elective surgeries. Several closed and evacuated patients, including Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, a Manhattan campus of the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System and other NYU-affiliated facilities. Bellevue lost electricity but as of mid-morning was operating on backup power.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was clearly angry about the NYU Medical Center crisis when he addressed reporters late Monday, saying hospital officials had assured the city they had working backup power.
Last year, NYU evacuated in advance of Hurricane Irene on the order of city officials, spokeswoman Allison Clair said. "This year we were not told to evacuate by the city."