Schumer, Standing With Bishop William Murphy, Will Call on FEMA to Approve $20M in Federal Hazard Mitigation Funding for Catholic Health Services;
Islip, NY - April 28, 2014 - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to swiftly approve over $20 million in flood protection funding for Catholic Health Services’ Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip as well as Our Lady of Consolation Nursing and Rehabilitative Care Center (OLC), which lost power – a significant threat to healthcare facilities and their life-saving equipment - and were evacuated during Superstorm Sandy. Good Samaritan Hospital is located within a flood plain, yards from a channel of the Great South Bay and operates Suffolk County’s largest and most active Emergency Room. During Superstorm Sandy, Good Samaritan Hospital was partially evacuated. The most vulnerable treatment areas were closed and patients either transferred out or moved to less vulnerable treatment areas on campus. The emergency department closed because of storm damage which occurred early on. Emergency services were relocated to less vulnerable area of facility. Schumer explained that this is extremely concerning given that a great deal of life-saving hospital equipment needs reliable electricity to function. Due to the hospital and nursing home’s close proximity to the water, these facilities are in desperate need of federal Sandy dollars to purchase 3 new emergency generators, centralize its power plant and implement other flood mitigation measures. The State submitted Catholic Health Services’ application for federal approval last month; Schumer called on FEMA to quickly approve this funding so that these life-saving facilities can quickly improve their storm protection measures, in order to offer uninterrupted emergency and health services in the event of a future storm like Sandy.
“The federal hazard mitigation program aims to reduce the loss of life and property due to natural disasters, and Catholic Health Services’ application fits that to a T”, said Schumer.
“With such close proximity to the water, it’s clear that both Good Samaritan Hospital and Our Lady of Consolation Nursing Center are in need of new electricity generators, upgrades to elevate other critical equipment and other critical flood protection measures to ensure that these facilities can offer continuous, top-notch emergency services in the event of a future storm,” Schumer continued. “The Catholic Health Services’ application, which has now been submitted by the state to the feds, should be quickly approved by FEMA so that the next storm does not put these facilities, and their hundreds of urgent care and nursing home patients, in harm’s way without a reliable source of electricity. This is a smart plan for the busiest Emergency Rooms in Suffolk County, and there should be no delay in its approval.”
Catholic Health Services operates six acute care hospitals, three nursing homes, and fifty group homes for individuals with special needs, mental health and substance abuse issues. One of their hospitals, Good Samaritan Hospital, is located within a flood plain and just yards from a channel of the Great South Bay.
Good Samaritan Hospital is a 537-bed care facility and operates Suffolk County’s largest and most active Emergency Room (with 100,000 visits per year). The hospital also operates one of Suffolk County’s most active maternal/child units. The hospital was evacuated during Sandy. Before the storm, hospital workers helped move patients to other Catholic Health Services hospitals. Good Samaritan Hospital currently has seven antiquated generators. Specifically, the generators do not communicate with each other and there is no redundancy. This is a major design flaw. During Sandy, two generators failed and a person has to manually start the next generator when one fails. Additionally, the units sit at sea level. During a major rain storm two years ago, the hospital experienced flooding, nearly impacting the generators.
Catholic Health Services’ Our Lady of Consolation Nursing and Rehabilitative Care Center (OLC) is also located in West Islip and along the water. OLC is a 450-bed facility for long term chronically ill residents. Its two buildings are currently served by two generators that, when running replace only fifteen percent and twenty percent of the electric power. During Sandy and Irene, some residents were evacuated to multiple facilities throughout Long Island, but for some of the sickest individuals, evacuating was not possible. Those individuals, many that rely on ventilators, defibrillators and other important equipment, were forced to rely on the limited power provided by these existing generators.
Schumer explained that New York State has determined the Catholic Health Services application is a top priority for the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), and now FEMA must approve the project and its funding level. The HMGP program provides grants to states and local governments to implement long-term hazard mitigation measures after a major disaster declaration. The purpose of the HMGP is to reduce the loss of life and property due to natural disasters and to enable mitigation measures to be implemented during the immediate recovery from a disaster. The HMGP is authorized under Section 404 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.
Catholic Health Services is seeking $20.9 million in FEMA hazard mitigation funding to purchase three emergency electrical generators and install and elevate all generators at Good Samaritan and OLC. OLC seeks to replace one generator that is over 39 years old and that is functioning below acceptable levels, and to relocate both of its generators away from a flood prone area. Additionally, Catholic Health Services will use the funding to centralize its power plant to protect against future storms and commission an engineering study to improve drainage. Overall, Catholic Health Services will use the funding to protect the adjoining facilities by mitigating against flooding and avoid future evacuation of both facilities.
FEMA’s hazard mitigation grant program can provide additional funding under Section 406 of the Stafford Act, the federal disaster law that supplies aid to states and localities to implement long-term resiliency measures after a major disaster. The purpose of these grants is to reduce the loss of life and property due to natural disasters and to enable mitigation measures to be implemented during the recovery from a disaster. Normally, without these grants, FEMA will only provide enough funds for a locality to rebuild using the same specifications as the original structure.
Schumer today said that the hazard mitigation projects at Good Samaritan Hospital and OLC should be funded as quickly as possible.
A copy of Schumer’s letter is available upon request.