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Patients displaced by storm fill LI hospitals

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

Some Long Island hospitals were close to full or beyond capacity Thursday as they tried to care for patients transferred from evacuated facilities or people unable to see their regular doctors because of the storm.

Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, which normally has 350 to 375 patients, reported it had 553 -- the highest number in the past two decades.

"I'm concerned that we're reaching the point we will not have adequate staff or beds to care for the dramatically increased volume of patients," said NUMC chief executive Arthur Gianelli. "The reality is we're getting hit pretty hard. We're like a funnel."

The behemoth North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System with its 5,500 beds at 16 hospitals and 17 long-term care facilities, will soon have fewer than 50 beds available systemwide, said spokesman Terry Lynam. So far, the health system has taken in 262 patients from Long Island or New York City hospitals, shelters and nursing homes, Lynam said. He said the system was expecting 78 more nursing home patients from the city overnight.

North Shore-LIJ was also scrambling to take care of a growing number of dialysis patients normally treated at other outpatient facilities that are without power.

Other hospitals were also busy.

Christine Hendriks, spokeswoman for Catholic Health Services of Long Island, said its six hospitals were "close to capacity." Some of its hospitals were also seeing "double volume" in their emergency rooms, she said.

South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside is "operating at capacity," spokesman Damian Becker said.

Edmund Keating, spokesman for Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, said the hospital is full, a situation he called "not unusual."

Stony Brook University Hospital spokesman Clinton Weaver said the hospital had canceled elective procedures through Wednesday "so we are not experiencing bed shortages." But he said the emergency department has been seeing higher-than-usual volume.

At NUMC, patients were being sent to the eighth floor, where medical residents usually rest between shifts, and to ninth-floor rooms scheduled for renovation, said NUMC spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg. The hospital was also readying beds in hallways for less-serious patients, she said.

NUMC took in 57 patients from Long Beach Medical Center, evacuated before the storm, and its affiliated A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility took in 35 evacuated Long Beach nursing home residents. Lotenberg said the hospital also had a steady stream of residents from the storm-devastated South Shore unable to get care anywhere else.

North Shore-LIJ has extended hours for dialysis at its outpatient facilities in Great Neck and Queens Village from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. to accommodate extra patients, 26 of whom were outpatients from South Nassau Communities Hospital, Lynam said. The Oceanside dialysis facility had been flooded.

Dr. Steven Fishbane, North Shore-LIJ's vice president for dialysis services, said people were also showing up at the emergency department in need of treatment. Usually people in kidney failure need dialysis three times a week, he said.

Fishbane urged those needing treatment to call the End Stage Renal Disease Network of New York at 800-238-ESRD (3773) to find a dialysis facility.

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