NYSUT members who work at two State University of New York hospitals that serve New York City and Long Island were part of a critical link between the storm and safety as Superstorm Sandy devastated the metropolitan area Monday.
As one flooded hospital and nursing home after another had to close in New York City or on Long Island, SUNY Downstate Medical Center in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, and Stony Brook University Hospital, along with its affiliated Long Island State Veterans Home, accepted transfer patients with a range of medical needs.
Downstate took five patients using ventilators from the Ocean Promenade Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Rockaway Park, Queens, said Ron Najman, a Downstate spokesman. As Coney Island Hospital also began to evacuate patients Tuesday, Downstate offered to take 20 medical-surgical patients and six pediatric patients. As of Tuesday afternoon, it was still not known if those patients would be arriving at Downstate, but Downstate was ready and very willing to accept them, Najman said.
"That's what we're here for," he said. "It's an honor to be here to help people."
Members of the United University Professions, NYSUT higher education local that represents academic and professional faculty at SUNY, have waged a year-long effort to prevent a restructuring plan at Downstate Medical that could cost as many as 1,000 of the center's 8,000 employees their jobs. The center is Brooklyn's fourth-largest employer and the only source of nearby health services for thousands of low-income New York City residents. And, because of its location in central Brooklyn, it avoided the flooding and power blackouts that closed several other hospitals.
"If Downstate's University Hospital was not available as a full-service hospital, where would these people go?" asked Downstate Chapter President Rowena Blackman-Stroud, who also serves as UUP's statewide treasurer. "Downstate was put to the test during Hurricane Sandy and we passed with flying colors."
Najman noted that the medical center continued operating through the storm. An ambulatory service center briefly closed, and academic classes were canceled, but all other patient services - including urgent care, family clinics and dialysis – remained open Monday and Tuesday.
At Stony Brook, 18 patients from Good Samaritan Nursing Home in Sayville, Long Island, spent Sunday and part of Monday at the veterans' home, said Stony Brook spokesman Clinton Weaver. Stony Brook also received 12 psychiatric patients Monday from Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport. Those patients were expected to stay at Stony Brook until Wednesday.
Weaver had high praise for the professionalism and dedication of the hospital staff, many of whom are UUP members who had to leave their own devastated neighborhoods to get to work under difficult and even frightening conditions.
"People have really gone above and beyond the call of duty to come into work and care for our patients," Weaver said.