Hurricane Sandy caused untold destruction and chaos up and down the east coast last week, and as we now know, it was poised to hit New York City and New Jersey with special ferocity.
But as the storm gathered strength in the Atlantic last weekend, officials within the New York Harbor Health Care System and the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 3 leadership team made a crucial decision: get the patients out of the Manhattan flood zone before the storms reached the city. The VISN worked with leadership on the ground to quickly and safely coordinate the transfer of all patients and staff to other hospitals in the network.
“The first priority in these situations is always patient and employee safety,” said Jennifer Sammartino, a public affairs officer for the NY Harbor Healthcare system.
This isn’t the first time a VA hospital director has been faced with a difficult decision to evacuate patients before an emergency situation. Hurricane Irene forced the Manhattan facility to evacuate last year with no issues, Sammartino said. The Hampton VA Medical Center in Virginia also evacuated before the storm, among other facilities. VA social media continues to play a vital role in getting accurate and timely news to Veterans and employees affected by the chaotic storm. Sammartino is continuing to update the NY Harbor Healthcare System Facebook page and Twitter feed to keep Veterans and staff abreast of developing conditions. The New Jersey Health Care System has also taken to Twitter to alert Veterans on which facilities are open or closed, allowing for Veterans to pivot to other facilities.
Earlier today, VA’s New York Harbor Healthcare System’s Manhattan facility announced it would remain closed as damage assessment continues. The Brooklyn VA Medical Center and the St. Albans Community Living Center are open and receiving patients. The New Jersey Health Care System is also open with info about the operations of clinics and local Community Based Outpatient Clinics on their website. Veterans can call centralized scheduling at 1-877-877-9267 to schedule an appointment at these and other facilities.
Here’s a list of telephone numbers for Veterans to use for information on general health questions, appointments, and for medication refills:
For medical emergencies, please dial 911.
Emergency prescription refills: Go to a big chain drug store with your VA Id card and prescription bottle and ask the pharmacist to call Heritage Health Solutions Customer Care Center at 1-866-265-0124, representative will qualify the request by asking a few questions. No controlled drugs will be processed under this program. If a controlled drug is needed, please contact the Brooklyn VAMC Emergency Department.
VA Nurse Help Line: Call 1-866-940-2877 to speak to a registered nurse if you experience any symptoms or have any health related questions.
Centralized scheduling: Call 1-877-877-9267 for questions about an appointment at the Manhattan VA or to schedule an appointment.
Mental health help desk: 718-836-6600 extension 3742
Pharmacy call center: 631-863-4832