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Federal report says hospitals weren't ready for Superstorm Sandy

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(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
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A new federal report on the emergency preparedness and response of tri-state area hospitals during Superstorm Sandy says many of them were unprepared to deal with the challenges they faced.  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) found most of the hospitals had been cited before the storm for a lack of preparedness.

In many cases, the issues that were cited by accreditation organizations were exactly the same ones that caused problems during the storm. The report didn’t list which hospitals had which problems, but found that 89 percent of them experienced what they called critical challenges.

Petra Nealy of the Office of Inspector General for HHS described those challenges in an agency podcast.  

“These included infrastructure breakdowns, like electrical and communication failures, and resource issues, like fuel, transportation, hospital beds, and public shelters,” she said.

The report looked at 172 hospitals in the hardest-hit areas of New York, most of Connecticut, and all of New Jersey.

Jim Paturas is the director of emergency preparedness for Yale New Haven Health system, which includes Yale New Haven Hospital, Bridgeport Hospital, and Greenwich Hospital. He says, luckily, their hospitals were spared most of the impact, but they saw what happened in some other hospitals that had to be evacuated.

“And what Sandy and Katrina reminded us of is that we could, on top of being the receiving site for a community disaster, be the disaster site,” Paturas said.

Paturas says hospitals are now more prepared than they’ve ever been.

“My concern over the next few years would be that we don’t slip back,” he said.

As a result of federal cuts, Connecticut cut 37 percent of state funding for hospital preparedness this year.

Craig produces sound-rich features and breaking news coverage for WGBH News in Boston. His features have run nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on PRI's The World and Marketplace. Craig has won a number of national and regional awards for his reporting, including two national Edward R. Murrow awards in 2015, the national Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award feature reporting in 2011, first place awards in 2012 and 2009 from the national Public Radio News Directors Inc. and second place in 2007 from the national Society of Environmental Journalists. Craig is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Tufts University.