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Getting Ferry Passengers To Hospitals Is Harder In Post-Sandy New York City

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Getting the injured to the hospital after the Seastreak Wall Street ferry crash Wednesday was not as easy as it would have been had Superstorm Sandy not hit Lower Manhattan last October.

As CBS 2's Dr. Max Gomez reported, experts said the transportation of the injured to seven hospitals in Manhattan and Brooklyn was complicated because two major emergency rooms – at NYU Langone Medical Center and especially at Bellevue Hospital – remained closed to critically injured patients as of Wednesday in the aftermath of flooding from the late-October hurricane.

Bellevue did receive 29 injured in the ferry accident. All were expected to be released later Wednesday.

Still, area hospitals were working at or above capacity.

"Since Sandy, our volume in the emergency room has gone up by about 100 patients a day," said Mark Stoller of Beth Israel Hospital.

The patients were taken to New York Downtown Hospital – which received 22 – as well as Lenox Hill, Roosevelt, Beth Israel and Cornell hospitals, CBS 2's Sean Hennessey reported.

At least 74 people were injured. There were 11 serious injuries, including a head injury that left a patient in critical condition at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

It was lucky that there were not more serious injuries, given that area hospitals -- NYU Langone, Bellevue, and in Brooklyn, Coney Island Hospital -- have been working at full capacity ever since Sandy hit, CBS 2's Gomez reported

Meanwhile, the scene Wednesday morning at the South Street Seaport had the look of serious mass casualties. But most of the 326 passengers involved in the crash actually escaped unharmed.

Even though the ferry hit the dock hard, it was moving relatively slowly, so most of the injuries that did occur were considered minor, Gomez reported.

Emergency physicians said the types of injuries they saw were typical of low-speed crashes with unsecured passengers.

"In general, those kind of injuries turn out to be low-level, which would be mostly musculoskeletal pains, lacerations, bruises, bumps, occasionally maybe a fracture," Stoller said.

People waiting to get off were thrown without warning. The head injury came from someone falling down stairs.

A number of the injured people were seen with their heads and necks immobilized on backboards – standard precautionary procedure when a neck, head or spine injury is even suspected, Gomez reported.

Anyone who was on the ferry and in the next couple of days and finds himself or herself with a headache, or a sense of wooziness or disorientation, is advised to seek medical attention – as such symptoms could be a sign of a delayed reaction to a head injury.

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