Hospitals full, regional blood supply low

The Nassau University Medical Center is located at

The Nassau University Medical Center is located at 2201 Hempstead Turnpike. (March 12, 2012) (Credit: Nicole Bartoline)

Hospitals on Long Island and in New York City are still functioning at full capacity after last week's pummeling superstorm, which has also delivered a blow to the regional blood supply, now reported at critically low levels, health authorities said Friday.

"Census is up across the board because of the evacuations and because so many hospitals have been taking in patients," said Brian Conway, spokesman for the Greater New York Hospital Association.

There are no figures on the percentage-increase in patients admitted to hospitals in the wake of mega-storm Sandy, but most facilities on Long Island and in New York City are reporting higher numbers, Conway said.


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The census at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow is hovering around 510 patients, according to hospital officials, who estimate the number of patients at the A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Uniondale at 626.

Because of Sandy's impact, both facilities have been functioning beyond the capacities for which they're licensed, hospital officials say.

In Bethpage, Dr. Howard Sussman, chief medical officer at St. Joseph Hospital, said Sandy unexpectedly accelerated the growth of his hospital's census.

"Basically our hospital census is about 30 percent higher than it had been before the storm and our emergency room visits are running in about the same ballpark," Sussman said, noting that Sandy has had a greater impact on driving up the number of people in hospital beds than this week's nor'easter that hammered Long Island.

Numerous medical reasons are forcing people to seek hospital care.

"It's safe to say stress is taking a toll," Sussman said. "Chronic illnesses are getting exacerbated and we are still seeing people who need support because they don't have electricity or heat."

In Manhattan, Bellevue Hospital Center -- a leading facility in the city's disaster response during 9/11 -- is out of service because of storm damage. About 500 patients were evacuated to other hospitals.

NYU Langone and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center also were crippled as a direct result of the superstorm. Evacuations from all three facilities put a strain on the city's other hospitals.

As receiving hospitals cope at full capacity -- and beyond -- officials at the New York Blood Center are issuing yet another urgent appeal for blood.

Rob Purvis, the center's vice president, is projecting a total cumulative shortfall of up to 12,000 units in the next 30 days because of storm damage to locations where blood is collected.

The blood center needs all blood types -- A, B, O and rarer variants, Purvis said. He noted the center particularly welcomes those with blood-type O-negative, the so-called universal donor, which can be transfused into any recipient. He's urging potential donors to check the center's website, www.nybloodcenter.org, for open locations.

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