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NY1 News: NY Downtown Hospital Restructures With Lessons Learned On 9/11 - 8/28/06

They were the first line of response for hundreds of civilians and rescue workers injured in the hours immediately following the World Trade Center attacks. Now, a small community hospital is putting forth a large-scale effort, restructuring with lessons learned from terrorism. NY1 Health & Fitness Reporter Kafi Drexel filed this report.

The scene at New York Downtown Hospital in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks was chaotic. With it being the only hospital in the downtown area, while so many were fleeing, doctors and staff there were staying.

They say in those early hours following the attacks, they were treating at some points nearly 175 patients an hour.

“The influx of patients right away was overwhelming,” says Dr. Antonio Dajer of New York Downtown Hospital. “I'd never seen that many people in one place coming in, ever.”

Half a decade later, they're taking the lessons learned from 9/11 and applying them for the future in the form of a new $25 million emergency department built with handling any future disasters in mind.

“We were going to just refurbish the emergency room, make a $10 million renovation. After 9/11 we realized we had an obligation to the community to do much more than that,” says the hospital's Dr. Bruce Logan.

With much of the work complete, and some of it still a hard-hat area, the hospital is doubling the size of its ER department, and more than doubling its patient bed capacity.

They've also traveled to Israel, borrowing ideas from Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, to better learn how to respond to possible mass casualty events. That includes getting creative with different ways of expanding to deal with a lot of patients.

“The cafeteria was filled with people on 9/11. There were hundreds of people seen that day in the cafeteria alone, so what we did is we built along the wall in the cafeteria capabilities for oxygen and suction and monitoring and so forth,” says Dr. Logan.

While the project is still under construction, when it it's completed it will include something that's going to distinguish the new emergency center from all others in the area; the largest decontamination unit in the city.

Once complete, the unit will have more than 16 high powered shower heads where they'll be able to process hundreds of people an hour in the event of something as serious as a chemical attack.

“Things are different now, and what we're doing in this emergency room, as far as I'm concerned, is national defense,” says Dr. Logan.

It's not just the emergency room where the events of 9/11 have impacted change, it's also the mindset of the hospital staff that's changed there as well.

“Through no fault of anyone, we just happened to be here and other hospitals weren't,” says Dr. Bajer. “And I think in a sense it's almost easier because we know what we need to do, despite the anxieties that causes. I think the newer department has helped everyone know we have even more resources than the last time, so we're better prepared.”

- Kafi Drexel

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