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June 5, 1980
VA patients moved following tornadoes

By Karen Wittwer
Independent Staff Writer

With the Veterans Administration Medical Center virtually unable to care for patients following Tuesday night's tornado, the last patients were moved to veterans hospitals in Omaha and Lincoln.

Richard Ledbetter, medical center administrator, said approximately 80 of the hospital's 140 patients were moved by ambulance and chartered bus with the last group leaving early Wednesday afternoon.

Many of the other patients were well enough to be discharged and sent home, he said. Several patients were moved to local hospitals.

Ledbetter said Thursday morning he had no damage estimate but that at least half of the windows are out and debris on the upper floors was extensive. There was no basic structural damage.

However, cleanup is progressing well with general cleaning completed on the second, third and fourth floors and some windows have been replaced.

But Ledbetter said he didn't know when the medical center would be able to reopen.

Although the medical center has three emergency generators, Ledbetter said one was not hooked up because of construction and one was overturned and damaged during the storm. The third generator operates the switchboard and some lights but because it is water cooled it must be turned on and off, he said.

No patient, visitor or employee was injured Tuesday largely due to the quick action of hospital staff, Ledbetter said.

Those patients who were able were moved to the basement and others were moved to inside corridors on lower floors. The formula is two floors on two walls, Ledbetter said.

Several blocks from the medical center, at the Nebraska Veteran's Home, cleanup tasks also were in progress.

Administrator Bob Brownstone said the 400 patients have been moved to the main buildings on the campus. Some are in the halls and no one has had to leave the home but the city utility situation is being monitored closely, he said.

The home is purifying and trucking in water and toilets are being used on a limited basis, he said. Patients are receiving hot food and the communications and phone system was back in full operation Thursday morning, he said.

Supplies are good and there are no medicine shortages at the home.

Brownstone said initial damage estimates are $2 million with much of the damage to windows and roofs.

A few residents at the home were injured during the tornado but only one patient was hospitalized and she has been dismissed, he said.