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Storm-damaged New York hospital partially reopens its doors

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City partially reopened its inpatient facilities on Thursday, nearly two months after it was flooded by Superstorm Sandy and sustained damages that could exceed $1 billion.

Storm damage in New Jersey, New York City's outer boroughs and New York state's Long Island captured most of the world's attention after the second-costliest hurricane in U.S. history made landfall on October 29, obscuring much of the damage sustained in Manhattan.

The emergency department at the Manhattan hospital could remain closed until the end of 2013.

At the height of the storm, the hospital was forced to evacuate its 322 patients, including 20 babies in intensive care, when it lost power and its rooftop back-up generators shut down because flooding knocked out fuel tanks in the basement.

Other major hospitals in Manhattan were also badly damaged.

Bellevue Hospital Center, one of the country's oldest hospitals and the city's main trauma treatment center, said this week that it was receiving ambulances for the first time since Sandy struck, and that full services were not expected until early February.

Recovery was still under way in other parts of Manhattan. About 10 percent of office space in downtown Manhattan, which includes the Financial District around Wall Street, was still closed as of late last week, according to a report by the real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle.

DAMAGE ESTIMATE OVER $1 BLN

As of Thursday, NYU Langone said it could once again perform surgery on patients that would involve overnight stays, and that its intensive care and neurology units were open. More than 50 inpatients were being seen on Thursday, a spokeswoman said.

Other services, such as its labor wards and pediatric and cancer departments, would reopen on January 14.

The hospital's emergency department on the ground floor was under construction as part of an expansion program when the storm hit, and the damage was still being repaired, the hospital's statement said. In the meantime, the hospital has set up a temporary urgent care center that will receive walk-in patients and redirect more serious cases to other places in the city.

The hospital resumed some outpatient services within a week of the storm.

The total cost of repairing damaged infrastructure and replacing state-of-the-art medical equipment was likely to exceed $1 billion, a spokeswoman said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, had already allocated $114 million, she said, and the hospital was waiting to see how much would be covered by insurance.

Images of critically ill patients being evacuated in the stormy darkness at NYU Langone and, the following day, the evacuation of some 725 patients from the nearby Bellevue, prompted concerns from some emergency experts that hospitals in New York and elsewhere are not prepared for times when the hospital itself is affected by a disaster.

Bellevue, though still closed to inpatients, has been operating outpatient clinics, walk-in emergency care and pharmacy services since November 19.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Jan Paschal)

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