Brooklyn-based Urban Radiology had been a mainstay in the Coney Island community for five years before its outpatient-imaging center was completely destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Eighteen months later, it has reopened officially to serve the community with new, state-of-the-art imaging equipment.
Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the second costliest hurricane in United States history. While many residents and businesses affected by Sandy received financial aid and were able to reopen after some time, Urban Radiology and other local businesses did not qualify for this financial assistance. With a determination to rebuild and continue to serve the community, John C. Rigney, MD, CEO and Medical Director of Urban Radiology, shares his experience working to clean up, rebuild and get back to providing imaging services to patients in Brooklyn.
Financial Assistance Not for All
Reports after the storm indicated that more than 23,000 New York City businesses employing 245,000 people were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. About 30 percent of those businesses were still closed one year after the storm. Although the city of New York does not track the business closures caused by the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), reports that disasters like Sandy typically claim close to 40% of small businesses. Some business owners said they couldn’t access government loan programs because they didn’t meet the requirements, and others were reluctant to take on more debt.
“It’s been a struggle for us since day one,” says Rigney. “Urban Radiology is a private practice, and we didn’t receive any of the financial assistance offered by the state and federal government, and worse yet, we received no insurance payment because our facility is located below grade, and we cannot get flood insurance.”
In a 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics entitled, Economic Impact of Hurricane Sandy, the government estimates the cost of the damage from the storm, as well as the length of time it may take to completely restore the city, but does not take into account economic losses to businesses like Urban Radiology.
The authros of the report write: “Our measurement of the economic disruptions inflicted on New Jersey and New York by Hurricane Sandy assumes that most businesses faced only short-term business disruptions. A number of economic indicators suggest that disruptions to industry production in the affected areas were short-lived…economic activity almost fully resumed within a couple of months after the storm.”
That was not the case for Urban Radiology.
A Picture of Devastation
The right words are difficult for Rigney to find when looking at the photos taken after the storm. The city of New York suffered unimaginable flooding and destruction. At Urban Radiology, the entire facility was submerged, almost swallowed up by the storm. When she was finished, Sandy left the city in ruins and Urban Radiology was not spared.
“I still tear up and get emotional when I look through the photos. We lost everything—55,000 patient files, 18 months of data, servers, backups. And all of our imaging equipment,” says Dr. Rigney. “Fifty of 63 payments were made on our equipment. We only had about a year left, and we had to finish paying for the equipment—and also pay to remove it.”
Because of the type of equipment onsite, such as the MRI, special care needed to be taken to remove it. There was concern as to whether or not the system’s cryovent had been clogged and teams went in wearing scuba gear as a safety precaution to quench the magnet and begin removing the scanner. Hazardous material teams were also called in to evaluate the cleanup. When the waters receded, what was left would make anyone think Urban Radiology was finished.
“You could see the water line was about 12 inches from the ceiling— it completely submerged the entire imaging center. And when we were allowed to go in, we just couldn’t believe it. We found things from the front desk all the way in the back. Rushing water just smashed everything—destroyed in minutes what took years to build,” says Dr. Rigney. “If anyone had been there, they would certainly have been killed. We are very fortunate that no one was hurt.”
Committed to Rebuilding
Claudette Lew is editor of imagingBiz.com