Dr. Eric Wei, Senior Vice President and Chief Quality Officer, NYC Health + Hospitals: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Eric Wei, I’m senior vice president for New York City Health + Hospitals. I just wanted to give you an update on the situation here at Woodhull Hospital. It is my pleasure to introduce the team that’s up here with me. I have Mr. Mayor of New York City, I have Commissioner Zach Iscol for NYCEM, I have Doctor Lisa Scott McKenzie, the COO for Woodhull hospital and our incident commander for this event. We have our wonderful CEO for Woodhull, Gregory Calliste, and our VP for Office and Facilities Development, Manny Saez here. And so I’m going to kick us off with handing it off to Mr. Mayor, Eric Adams, to give a brief remark.
Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you, thank you so much, doctor, and just sitting up in your situation room and just hearing from this team. Dr. Wei, H + H, and just the real coordination with this hospital that I know so well as the Brooklyn borough president. I spent many days here with this awesome team and these are things that are happening even after the rain dissipated there was still a whole cleanup operation. And we were extremely sensitive here in the hospitals to make sure we got it right.
Eight inches of water. Eight inches of water, zero reported deaths, zero serious injuries. Schools remained opened, the city still functioned even with the onslaught of rain and the coordination of city employees with eight inches of record water in our city. And yesterday one of the fallouts from that eight inches of water was the electrical system here suffered damage as a result of the flooding. Our hospital was able to switch to backup power and service to patients continued under the close watchful eye of the staff and team that’s here. No serious injuries due to that electrical issue, no loss of life, a smooth transition.
But in order to fix the underlying damage we need to fully turn off the hospital power, so yesterday we had an inter agency call and the teams came together — H + H, NYPD, FDNY, NYCEM, the hospital staff here all came together and decided to transfer the patients in the hospital to other Health + Hospital facilities to ensure we continue to provide them with the best possible care.
Those transfers started with critical patients yesterday. We were extremely sensitive, we did not want family members to hear that their loved ones were being transferred publicly without us communicating with them first, and that is what this hospital team did. We have about 50 patients left here down from around 130 this morning, and will continue to transfer through the rest of the day.
And this team should be commended, extremely understanding the sensitivity of when a loved one is in the hospital, you know, we want to make sure you interact directly with number one, with the patient, number two the family members involved. We communicated directly with patients and families about the need for the transfer, and we’ll continue to communicate as the transfers continue.
We want to make sure that the patients heard from their doctors first. That was so important to us, that the doctors could interact with the patients and let them know exactly what we were doing. We also communicate with our local electeds to ensure them we’re going to keep them in the loop.
And so again, I want to thank just this inter agency response as we dealt with this record level of rain that hit our city. It is commendable from the FDNY through our Department of Health personnel to NYCEM, NYPD, everyone came together sitting inside the situation room and just hearing about the onslaught of everyday New Yorkers coming together resolving this issue.
And so the rain is gone. The cleanup is now upon us, and we’re going to continue to make sure that the city gets back to functioning and operating. But it’s a clear reminder that this climate change is real. These storms are common as frequent as we could ever imagine, and we have to continue to be prepared to make sure that we don’t lose lives and don’t have serious physical injuries to our loved ones.
And we want to… As always, we want to tell New Yorkers to sign up to NotifyNYC, it’s at nyc.gov/notify. Download the NotifyNYC app or by calling 311. It is a real easy way to be notified far ahead of time as we did yesterday at 02:45 ish of saying, you know, this storm was going to hit our city.
And so again, thank you, Dr. Wei, I know Dr. Katz is not here with us. But this entire team, great job ensuring the safety of loved ones and family members and protecting the sensitivity of properly notifying those family members and the patients that were involved. Dr. Wei.
Wei: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. We see, we feel and we always appreciate your endless support. This is really a full city response, and one of those city agencies that we’re very grateful to is NYCEM led by Commissioner Zach Iscol. I’m going to hand it over to him to make some comments.
Commissioner Zach Iscol, New York City Emergency Management: All right. Thank you, Dr. Wei, and thank you, Mr. Mayor. You know, as the mayor said and I think he said most of it, it really was an incredible effort that took place starting out last night. The call came in that we would need to transfer patients out of this hospital. We immediately sent one of our NYCEM employees here, a guy named Rob Bristol who runs our Health and Medical team. Rob and I actually worked together along with one of the state EMS folks who’s here during Covid to help evacuate one of the public hospitals when they had some problems with their oxygen systems.
And there was something that sort of was really apparent when we jumped on that call. One was the leadership of Dr. Lisa Scott McKenzie, the Incident Commander here. It was also apparent, as the mayor spoke about, just this incredible inter agency process that takes place.
You know, we had just been through a day of severe weather, multiple days of preparing for that event, pre-staging folks around the city, making sure that all agencies were able to respond effectively and immediately to keep New Yorkers safe. And you saw that care and concern immediately taking place last night at around 10 p.m., 10:30 p.m. of folks working together, putting patients first, figuring out how we could do this safely and effectively.
There’s no resource that was… We leveraged a lot of different resources to be able to do this, ambulances, FDNY vehicles. We have large vehicles that were purchased after Sandy to help with the evacuation of large numbers of folks from hospital systems. But then the team had to work overnight finding beds, doing the patient census, making sure that we’re matching people with specific needs to our other place in the hospital system. And that effort was really led by Dr. Lisa Scott McKenzie. It’s my pleasure to introduce her and you’ll hear from her. Thank you.
Lisa Scott McKenzie, COO, NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull: Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor and commissioner. You’re too kind. Dr. Wei, Mr. [inaudible] and our partners for [inaudible], I just want to thank you all, and of course, our local electeds as well. We just really want to thank everyone for the support for our hospital. Of course you know that everyone’s talking about leadership, but you can’t be a great leader without a great team. And so we have a fantastic team upstairs in the command center. They’ve been working all night, will probably work all night tonight. But everyone’s in good spirits. They’re looking forward to it.
And the support that we’ve received from NYCEM especially, but many, many others across the city, we really feel like New Yorkers and we’re grateful to be New Yorkers. So, we’re glad that we were able to give back to our community and take care of our patients, and when they really needed us the most. And so we just thank you.
Commissioner Iscol: One is, sorry, it’s not just a love fest, but Dr. Scott McKenzie has been here for 37 years. She’s worked with this hospital, filled a lot of roles here. The other thing that was apparent when I walked into this place when we talk about leadership. I sort of kept saying to folks, you know, when the Mayor comes, like I’m really excited to introduce you to the mayor. And everybody here already knows the mayor. You would think that he is the mayor of Woodhull Hospital.
And so it really was sort of a homecoming when you walk into this building seeing everybody here and also just the care and concern shown to the people that we are fortunate to get to work alongside. You really are the backbone of the city. The folks that show up no matter what the weather is, no matter what the event is to make sure we’re serving New Yorkers.
The mayor is always looking out for them. He knows them personally. He knows who they are and who their names are, and that’s the type of leader who leads from the front. And I can tell you that was palpable when we walked into this building. So, thank you, sir. People are looking out for the folks that take care of this city.
Mayor Adams: Thank you. Thank you. And also we have Councilman Ossé as well. We’ll take a few on topic questions.
Question: So in regards to what hospital exactly are they being taken out to, what does that look like right now? And when will they be coming back to Woodhull?
Wei: Yes. So, we’re taking patient preference and right, we know it’s difficult to travel long distances especially after a storm like we received yesterday. So, we’re looking at our closest New York City Health + Hospital facilities first: that’s Kings County, that’s Bellevue, that South Brooklyn Health. But we are sharing it across all of our sites. Some have gone to Queens, Metropolitan, North Central Bronx, Jacobi.
Question: [Inaudible] family, how’s that working out, because we spoke with some people outside and they said had no word, they walk in trying to look for their family member, family member is not here and they’re just getting worried. So, how’s the communications between patients and their family?
Wei: Yes, so we’ve gone through, repurposed a lot of the team here as we started decamping patients to have that communication with patients at bedside. If they wanted us to notify family members, we did that as well. But like we said, we didn’t want to put it out publicly, or as Mr. Mayor said, the Mayor said we didn’t want to put it out publicly before we notified patients and families themselves.
Mayor Adams: And I just want to, cause that’s very important. When a loved one is in the hospital, a slew of family members are aware of that. And so you always have family members who did not get that immediate notification. You know, whenever someone’s in the hospital you’re going to have everything from your uncle, your cousin, your friends.
And so will people come here and not have been personally notified, yes. But we made the attempt to notify immediate family members to let them know that we’re going to be transferring your loved ones. But once someone hears hat someone’s in the hospital, everyone that loves them is going to come to the hospital and it doesn’t mean each one of them are going to get a call. But when they come here they’re going to be notified about the movement.
Question: Talk about the critically ill patients. How many were transferred last night and when will all the patients be able to come back.
Wei: All right. So, between the ICU patients and our laboring persons yesterday, we transferred 17 patients out, five of those were ICU.
Question: And today, is it complete, the transfer?
Wei: Not yet. We expect to finish in the next few hours. We’re about 50 percent through the patients that were left this morning to transfer.
Question: And when do you think they’ll come back?
Wei: So, it’s too early to say. We’re working through the repairs in phase. Con Edison has completed their portion which allows us to look in house at what the damage from the flooding caused to our electrical system. Once that diagnosis is done, then we’ll have a repair time then.
Mayor Adams: And the inconvenience of traveling somewhere else is not going to get in the way of the professionalism of services. This is still H + H, and so they’re still going to get the needed care. I want to emphasize that there’s not going to be a disruption in the care.
There may be just as an inconvenience that if you’re from this community you may have to go to another hospital, but it’s going to impact on the quality of H + H care. And we’re not going to bring anyone back into this hospital until we’re sure that it’s not going … The electrical system, the issue is resolved and we can continue the care that the patients deserve.
Question: Can you talk about the extent of the damage to the electrical system and also this is a really busy hospital aside from who was already here. What is going to happen to all the trauma and emergency visits from here on out, where will they go.
Manny Saez, Vice President, Facilities, NYC Health + Hospitals: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. We’re working through the assessment of our system, so as Dr. Wei said, it’s a little too early to tell. But we’re working very diligently to complete our assessment, determine a timeline for repair and really just get to it.
Question: And then ER visits, trauma.
Wei: Yes. So, we immediately notified all the closest hospitals letting them know that we were going to have to shut down our…temporary pods services here at this facility including the emergency department. We believe that they will be able to accommodate the volume. We were happy to also receive any sort of transfers due to the stress at these other facilities.