Makeshift Hospital Comes to Long Beach
A makeshift hospital fills the needs of the community after Hurricane Sandy.
At the Ice Rink, FEMA has organized distribution where donations of food, water, clothing and pet supplies are available for city residents. On the adjacent field, located between West Pine Street and Magnolia Boulevard, lie four enormous tents, containing a makeshift hospital.
A Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) has been dispatched by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide medical aid during a disaster.
Along with a field hospital, there is a command tent where the commander, deputy commander and executive staff can hold meetings and direct operations. There is also a tent where most of the team sleeps throughout its stay.
The Texas-4 DMAT arrived in Long Beach after Hurricane Sandy destroyed Long Beach Medical Center. The field hospital treats everything from cuts and wounds to chest pains and shortness of breath.
“It became more and more clear that areas ravaged by the storm made it difficult to get supplies,” said Dr. Mona Khanna, staff physician to the team.
Dr. Mona, who is also a medical contributor for Fox Chicago, is a member of the Texas-4 DMAT since 1998, has been sent to many disaster zones including Ground Zero after 9/11, Sri Lanka and Indonesia after the Indian Ocean tsunami, and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Existence of the field hospital was spread through the city’s daily flyers, word of mouth, and just its proximity to the FEMA headquarters at the ice rink. The Long Beach Fire Department, working closely with DMAT, assisted in getting the word out about the hospital as well.
The recreation field is large enough for a helipad, so critically ill patients can be stabilized and then transported to a higher-level facility.
“We are the first line of treatment for these medical conditions,” said Dr. Mona. “If they do not have us to be the middleman for treatment, then they would have a very difficult time getting somewhere with their medical conditions being stabilized.”
Prior to Hurricane Sandy, a clinic or primary care physician normally treated most health conditions treated in Long Beach’s field hospital. Concussions, fractured bones and asthma attacks are more common since “Sandy”.
Dr. Mona explained that there are a number of reasons why disasters like “Sandy” could cause asthma attacks. Triggers of asthma include cold weather, exposure to toxins such as chain smoking, anxiety and stress from trauma, and the loss of medications or inability to fill them; many of which could be storm related.
Most pharmacies on the Barrier Island are closed, so many could not fill prescriptions and doctors could not be reached due to the lack of power and phones. Residents lost their cars; therefore going to a pharmacy outside of Long Beach was not an option. The field hospital also acts as a pharmacy where patients can fill prescriptions.
The first few days of Texas-4’s deployment were in the Bronx and Queens. When asked how being stationed in Long Beach differed, Dr. Mona said she was surprised about the lack of power citywide.
“Long Beach was different in the sense that it appeared a little more isolated,” described Dr. Mona. “The section of Queens I was in; power was not an issue. In Long Beach, the residents are still there, but they were functioning without utilities,” she continued.
The Ohio-5 DMAT replaces Texas-4 this week at the field hospital set up by the Department of Health and Human Services.