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LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Medical services have been suffering in the New York metro area in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, with hospitals left understaffed and overwhelmed.
But CBS 2’s Lou Young got an exclusive look at a new kind of portable hospital that has popped up on Long Beach, Long Island, to help.
Lillian O’Shaughnessy of Long Beach was among those who was in need of the facility that has been set up in tents. She survived the storm, but hurt herself trying to fix the damage to her home.
“I fell down the stairs trying to put the heat on,” she said.
O’Shaughnessy was rushed to the only hospital open in her storm-damaged town – a federal facility staffed from out-of-towners flown in to take up the slack for the waterlogged and evacuated medical center on the bay.
“This is sort of a replacement hospital for Long Beach Community Hospital that’s not in in operation right now,” said facility commander Bill Devir.
Typically, Long Beach usually generates about 35 emergency medical cases a day. But the portable hospital has been handling twice that since it opened, and the volume was expected to increase as people return to Long Beach trying to resume their normal lives in what is now a very dangerous environment.
“The car slammed me down and I got all road burn,” JoAnna Mackey said.
Mackey was hit while walking her dog on a blacked-out street.
Others came for what were once routine medical issues.
“I have asthma. I need treatment, and I don’t have a machine, because my machine is gone in the flood,” said Maria Madonado.
Most of the staff at the portable hospital came in from Dayton, Ohio. A few staffers are from places that saw federal teams from New York come to their rescue in years past, such as a registered nurse from Alabama who remembers the New Yorkers who rushed in after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“Everybody came across the nation to help out in the South, and whatever we can do to help anybody else out is what we do,” said nurse Richard Gephardt.
The portable facility works just like a hospital emergency room. The staff of 47 are living in neighboring tents in a repurposed sports field.
The new medical team also just arrived to relieve residents from Texas who had been operating the facility since Sandy struck. They are disaster veterans.
“This compares to Katrina,” said nurse Sandy Hurley.
The federal crews usually rotate through on three-week tours, but have paced themselves for the long haul, knowing full well the job here will not be over until the regular hospital is up and running.
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