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New York's Bellevue Hospital Set to Evacuate After Sandy

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- New York City's Bellevue Hospital and its remaining 700 patients have struggled along in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, with failing power, partially lighted halls and no computers, making it difficult to locate patients within the facility, hospital staff told ABC News on Wednesday.

When Sandy hit the New York area Monday night, Bellevue almost lost its generators.  At least one got repaired just in time to stave off an evacuation, but it's been a struggle to keep the hospital going.  Now, an evacuation is expected, making Bellevue the second of the city's public hospitals to be taken off line because of precarious and failing conditions that could endanger patient health.

"It's Katrina-esque in there," one nurse told ABC News.

Bellevue is perhaps the best known of the 11 hospitals that make up New York City's public hospital system.  On Tuesday, another of those hospitals, Coney Island Hospital, at the tip of Brooklyn, was evacuated.  Although one of its generators was still puttering along, another had long been underwater, and officials were reluctant to leave patients in such precarious conditions.

Lights out, computers down and long walks up and down dark stairwells and hallways to treat patients -- these are the conditions doctors, nurses, aides and staff face at Bellevue, as well as at Metropolitan Hospital, another city hospital that is running on backup generator power.

For two days, the Bellevue staff and the city have been poised for an eventual full evacuation, and that time now seems to have come, along with another quest for beds.

A spokesman at Mount Sinai Medical Center told ABC News that when it could no longer reach anyone at Bellevue, it sent a medical team of eight to Bellevue.  When the group arrived, two cardiac physicians told the Mount Sinai team they had two very serious patients that needed help.

Both of these patients will be moved to Mount Sinai, which is preparing for more patients.

On Wednesday, Bellevue nurses could be seen walking up and down stairs with food trays and medicine.  Some had to hike to the 17th floor, where some patients have "serious conditions."

Up and down the stairs, the evacuation of patients was under way.  But many patients still remain at Bellevue, according to city officials and hospital staff.

Police are stationed throughout Bellevue, and are limiting visitors' access to the main lobby entrance unless they are there to see family members.

The hospital is no longer admitting patients.

New York City's other major hospital evacuation this week happened Monday night at New York University Langone Medical Center.  A stream of ambulances evacuated patients from the hospital after backup generators failed following a power outage, city officials said.

NYU Langone Medical Center spokesman Christopher Rucas told ABC News on Tuesday that more than 300 patients had been safely moved out of the hospital and transferred to surrounding institutions.  Dozens of these were critical care patients, city officials said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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