NORWALK, Conn. – While superstorm Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc and created a wide swath of destruction throughout the region, some local hospitals experienced another kind of flood: visitors to the emergency room.
“It was a perfect storm, “ said Dr. Michael Carius, chief of Norwalk Hospital’s Emergency Department. “Doctors’ offices began shutting down Monday in preparation for the storm, and no medical offices or clinics were open by Tuesday.” At which point, he said, there was an “avalanche” of patients coming into the Emergency Room through Wednesday.
In fact, he said, the volume was difficult to quantify, but he estimated a 25 percent increase in patients at the height of the storm, which he added, was “bedlam.”
“Many people who came to the emergency room had no other access to care, as primary-care physicians had closed their offices, along with clinics and pharmacies,” he said. And people whose resources for coping with medical issues at home are limited were among those who visited the ER, he said. “Those who use bottled oxygen couldn’t re-supply from their normal channels due to flooding and downed trees,” he added.
A spokesperson at Greenwich Hospital said that the volume in its Emergency Department during and after the storm was up significantly. Stamford Hospital’s spokesperson said its ER saw a small increase in activity
Carius said an overflow of patients remains not only in doctors’ offices, some of which are still closed due to a lack of electricity, but in the ER as well. “There is a backlog of urgent care for primary physicians, as well as an overflow for downed clinics as well.”
Hurricane Sandy, said Carius, “Incapacitated our normal capacity.”