FEMA gives $1.6 billion to city hospitals for Sandy repairs
by Jess Berry
Nov 12, 2014 | 2827 views | 0 0 comments | 64 64 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It was only a month ago that Councilman Mark Treyger of South Brooklyn sent a letter to the Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) expressing concern over the disparity in disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) received by city hospitals compared to private institutions.

In a letter to HHC President and CEO Dr. Ramanathan Raju, Treyger pointed out that NYU Langone, a private facility, had been approved for over $1 billion in FEMA assistance, while public HHC facilities, such as Bellevue and Coney Island Hospitals, had only received a fraction of those funds.

Compared to NYU Langone’s $1.13 billion in assistance, Coney Island Hospital was only approved for $22.1 million in FEMA-funded capital repairs and another $22.9 million for emergency preparedness and response expenses.

This is especially egregious when Coney Island Hospital’s damages are taken into account, which amounted to approximately $700 million after the storm.

The basement and first floor of the hospital were flooded, severely damaging its emergency department, imaging services and a number of public administrative areas, all of which forced the hospital to shut down for two days.

“Our city’s public hospitals play a critical role in serving residents in all areas of the city, especially places like southern Brooklyn that have limited options when it comes to health care,” Treyger said. “We have spoken often about a tale of two cities, and I am concerned that the disparities in access to health care that already exist in neighborhoods around the city will only be exacerbated as a result of Superstorm Sandy.”

Fortunately, Treyger and his constituents no longer have to worry about the future of their hospital. Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Senator Charles Schumer announced that the city secured a commitment of at least $1.6 billion in funds from FEMA to repair and protect four of the city’s public hospitals that were damaged during Hurricane Sandy.

The allocation is the second-largest FEMA award ever and will fund improvements at Coney Island Hospital, Bellevue Hospital Center and Metropolitan Hospital Center in Manhattan and Coler Specialty Hospital on Roosevelt Island. This is a huge jump from the $142 million that HHC had already received from FEMA for Sandy repairs.

“Few services are as critical as our hospitals during extreme weather,” de Blasio said. “This unprecedented investment will make four key public hospitals much more resilient next time they need to be.”

The money will both reimburse HHC facilities for repairs due to Hurricane Sandy and provide funds for mitigation projects that will protect the hospitals in future cases of extreme weather.

“New York City’s public hospitals serve a very vulnerable patient population and must not be allowed to remain susceptible to future storms,” Dr. Raju said. “The local communities look to HHC hospitals for more than just health care, and the cost of shutting them down is human suffering.”

Of the $1.6 billion commitment from FEMA, $923 million will go to Coney Island Hospital, $376 million will go to Bellevue, $120 million will go to Metropolitan Hospital and $181 million will go to Coler Specialty Hospital.

Each hospital will use a portion of those funds to build new flood walls that will protect the critical services parts of the campuses.

Coney Island Hospital will also spend funds on a new resilient critical services building that will house an Emergency Department on the second floor, plus critical medical services such as x-ray, CAT scan, MRI, pharmacy and labs.

“Superstorm Sandy brought tremendous damage down on New York City’s hospitals, but today, we’re building them back better and stronger than ever before,” Gover nor Andrew Cuomo said. “By getting these four hospitals the resources they need to recover and become more resilient, we’re laying the groundwork for a safer and more prepared health network in the future.”

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