NEW York's Bellevue Hospital Centre, which has been operating on backup generators since the massive storm Sandy took out power across parts of the city, is being evacuated, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said tonight.
About 500 patients are affected by the evacuation of the city hospital located near the East River in Manhattan, but not in the worst part of Manhattan's flooded areas.
Several area hospitals have been contacted about the evacuation and are coordinating efforts to take on some Bellevue patients, including The Mount Sinai Hospital and St Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center.
"We learned this morning that Bellevue will now have to evacuate because of damage that it has sustained," Bloomberg told a news conference.
"They didn't think the damage was that bad and they had a generator going. But the bottom line is when they got into the basement they realized there was more damage. This is going to affect something like 500 patients," Bloomberg said.
Outside Bellevue, a long line of ambulances waited to ferry patients to other medical centers.
A handful of other New York hospitals had already been evacuated due to the storm that caused record flooding around the city.
New York University's Langone Medical Center near the city's East River was previously forced to evacuate all 215 of its patients, including critically ill infants, when its backup generator failed after some eight feet of water flooded its basement.
The Manhattan Veteran Affairs Hospital and the New York Downtown Hospital, both in low-lying areas of lower Manhattan, evacuated patients before the storm hit, and Brooklyn's Coney Island Hospital near the Atlantic Ocean beaches was later evacuated.
The mayor said the process of finding beds for evacuated patients was underway.
A spokeswoman for New York Presbyterian Hospital said it was accepting transfers from Bellevue, but was unsure of just how many. It had already taken in patients from three other evacuated medical centers, including NYU Langone.
Jarron Franklyn, 28, who works in Bellevue's rehabilitation department said: "The power is down and we have flooding in the basement." He said a back-up generator was still running.
A New York Police Department spokesman said National Guard members were assisting with the Bellevue evacuation.
Dennis Jiosne, 34, a patient from Point Pleasant New Jersey, was evacuated by stairs from the hospital's 16th floor. He said there were National Guardsmen in the stair well passing people food and water.
Jiosne, who was being treated for a septic ulcer, said the power went out two days ago and that there had been no running water in his room, but he appeared to be taking it all in stride.
"In my unit it really wasn't bad, aside from the plumbing and the food," he said. "I'm a pretty resilient guy. I was content in my room. The lack of television was an inconvenience."