Recent natural climatic events such as the impact and devastation Hurricane Sandy brought to the East Coast underscores the need for better emergency management.
NYU hospital was directly affected by the storm. The hospital management took steps, knowing that the storm was coming. However, one of those choices involved not to evacuating its patients as it did when Hurricane Irene made landfall last year, are being questioned by hospital staff. Those evacuations during Hurricane Irene took place two days prior but no evacuations took place this time around with the most recent storm.
According to reports, NYU hospital had back-up generators in its basement but as the water levels rose, they blew up and all the light in the hospital went out. More than 200 patients were evacuated by hospital staff such as nurses, doctors, medical students and research fellows. NICU nurses manually worked air-lines for premature babies as they were carried down and doctors carried patients in dark stairwells before fire crews and NYPD arrived.
It is foreseeable that, under such adverse conditions and situations, medical professionals are fatigued, stressed and more likely to make a medical mistake. At least one doctor indicated that doctors were informed of four patient deaths related to the loss of electricity although the hospital did not confirm this.
In general, hospitals, health professionals and doctors have an on-going duty to provide a reasonable standard of care. In the absence of such care, the hospital and the healthcare provider can be held liable for negligent care. However, in the case above, a natural disaster or event inherently bring with it uncertainties and the hospital and hospital staff can only do so much. Nevertheless, the hospital should have known that their generators could have been impacted; the electricity could have gone out and thereby affected its patient population.
It is reasonably foreseeable that medical mistakes might occur under such conditions. Nevertheless, a party harmed by a negligent healthcare provider may want to seek expert advice to evaluate their specific circumstance. In general, if a healthcare provider is found negligent, the injured party may be entitled to medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and more.
Source: News Statesman, “New York in the teeth of a hurricane – heroes and errors,” Nicky Woolf, Oct. 31, 2012