A makeshift hospital fills the needs of the community after Hurricane Sandy.
Normally a scene for bustling
athletics, the Long Beach Recreation Center has been morphed into a relief hub
since 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
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
“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
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
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
The Ohio-5 DMAT replaces Texas-4 this
week at the field hospital set up by the Department of Health and Human
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