Hundreds of hospital patients and nursing home residents were riding out Irene in unfamiliar surroundings after the threat of flooding forced their transfer from South Shore facilities.
About a dozen patients from Long Beach Medical Center clutched the backs of their blue medical gowns in the pouring rain Saturday morning as they were greeted by staff at the emergency room entrance of Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow. They were among 56 transferred after Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano on Friday ordered the barrier beach evacuated.
NUMC officials hovered around a table in the third-floor command center as they played a hospital version of musical chairs, trying to find beds for the transfers.
"We are aggressively staying on top of this," said Guy Courbois, vice president of operations, as he pointed to a complicated spreadsheet of available beds. The hospital reopened a vacant eighth-floor unit to accommodate nine psychiatric patients.
Between 25 and 50 residents from Komanoff Center for Geriatric & Rehabilitative Medicine in Long Beach were transported the 14.5 miles to A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Uniondale, where beds were put in the auditorium.
Long Beach's evacuation as well as that of Southside Hospital in Bay Shore and Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip put strains on the capacity of other Long Island hospitals that took in their patients.
Spokesman Terry Lynam said that Franklin had already taken in patients from Long Beach, Southside and South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside. Ambulances that would normally go to Franklin, he said, were diverted to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset and Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park.
But otherwise, hospitals across Island were geared up to handle any extra load from storm-related problems.
A spokesman for South Nassau -- the only other Long Island hospital south of Sunrise Highway -- said the hospital did not plan to evacuate its 270 patients. The hospital sits at the edge of the evacuation zone, and officials there believed they could safely ride it out, said Mark Head.
"We're staying put," Head said, "barring any further decision by the county executive," who had not ordered them to evacuate. Still, in anticipation of a possible evacuation, the hospital had been diverting ambulances since Friday, Head said.
By noon Saturday, all patients from Southside had been moved to other hospitals in the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, Lynam said. North Shore-LIJ evacuated the 775-bed Staten Island University Hospital.
Good Samaritan said that by midday it had discharged or transferred most of its 370 patients within the Catholic Health Services system and other facilities, and was closing all services as of 3 p.m.
"Following a comprehensive assessment of damage on Sunday, the hospital will determine a schedule for restoration of services," it said in a statement.
By early afternoon, Long Beach Medical Center also reported all its patients had been transferred. Southside kept a small staff on hand to handle walk-in emergencies.