Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Need to see a doctor? Hurry up and wait
One of my professors in medical school once told me that "the very measure of a society is how well they take care of their sick." His words have stayed with me throughout my medical career, and I heard those words again as I reported from New Orleans hospitals this week.

Nearly nine months after Katrina, it is as dangerous as ever to get ill or injured in New Orleans. In a city that once boasted the famed Charity Hospital, a mammoth trauma center that took care of the indigent and the ignored by the thousands, there are now only hastily thrown together emergency centers with limited beds and dangerously low staffing.

As I surveyed the hospital situation, I calculated that at noon on Tuesday, there were only eight hospital beds available in the entire metropolitan New Orleans area. One bad pile up on I-10 and New Orleans would in crisis mode again.

Charity is still standing, but it is empty and devoid of any life. And there are no plans to resuscitate it. When I asked one man sitting out in front of the hospital what he thought of the situation, he looked up and said, "A lot of people were born in Charity and a lot of people died there." So true, but now it is the hospital itself that has died. While there are plans to build a new Charity, a sort of Charity 2.0, it may take more than seven years for that to happen.

If there was one word to describe the hospital system in New Orleans today, it would have to be "waiting." If you are riding your bike and fall and break your collar bone, you will wait at least 12 hours. Step on a rusty nail in the morning and you shouldn't plan on seeing a doctor until the late evening. Swallow 100 Tylenols in an attempt to kill yourself and the doctors will act more quickly to save you, but then you will have to wait.

Ambulances roar up to the hospitals with sirens blaring, but I was stunned to learn it may take up to three hours to even bring the patient into the emergency room. Many patients simply lie on gurneys in the hallways that line emergency rooms throughout New Orleans with no place to go.

I wish I could say things were going to get better and that there was a master plan to improve medical care in New Orleans. Truth is, after interviewing haggard doctors at a few different hospitals, most think it is going to get worse before it gets better. As the city repopulates, there will be even more injured and ill with the same lack of resources.

My professor from medical school would be disappointed in New Orleans today. The frustration is palpable and it seems the only thing everyone agrees on is that something has to change. So, what would you suggest to try and take care of New Orleans' neediest?
Posted By Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Medical Correspondent: 2:03 PM ET
  58 Comments
I wish I could help.
Posted By Anonymous Alexandra, Nogales AZ : 2:27 PM ET
Why spend money repairing damaged American hospitals when there's more tax breaks to be given to the wealthy? What are you, some kind of pinko?
Posted By Anonymous Bob, San Francisco, CA. : 2:27 PM ET
After a disaster like Hurricane Katrina, which has all but destroyed the city of New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast, the entire area is in need of a federal aid plan on the scale of the Marshall Plan which helped rebuild Europe after World War II.

Instead of spending billions of dollars on political wars, our current government could better invest those billions of dollars in rebuilding the infra-structure of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
Posted By Anonymous Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 2:31 PM ET
It's interesting how charity is rather trendy. First all the money went to the tsunami then to katrina reliefs and now it's off to whatever the new epidemic is. Unfortunately it takes years for a crisis area to bounce back and become somewhat self sustainable. It's just pathetic and sad that the US doesn't have a savings account for situations like this in our own country, yet our check book is bigger than ever starting wars and sticking it's nose into other countries problems. My heart goes out to "Nawlins" and I wish there was a bigger effort here to continue to support those poor people.
Posted By Anonymous Lauren, Denver Colorado : 2:31 PM ET
If it were not for the current worldwide deployments of the military, I would suggest sending a Mobile Hospital Unit. But sadly, they too are over tasked. This issue seems to cry out for the establisment of a Civilian Service Corps along the lines of the military branches to handle just such situations.
Posted By Anonymous Kyle, Odenton MD : 2:40 PM ET
Hi Dr. Gupta,
I think we all should be disappointed in the situation of the medical care in New Orleans..Isn't there a hospital ship the military has? It seems to me like everything else, a solution could be found if we all demanded it. My best wishes to the people of New Orleans and all the Gulf Coast..Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 2:44 PM ET
Follow the money trail to our politicians and you will see what our priorities are. The solution is taking away the vote(money to politicians) from business and putting the power back in the public.
Posted By Anonymous Daniel Struve, Houston, TX : 2:49 PM ET
The medical community in the US has got to figure out a way to step up and fill the void. We know the government isn't capable of doing it. There has to be some way for hospitals in other cities to rotate doctors and nurses in, everyone taking a turn at bat. The doctors that have been there through the past nine months must be on the verge of collapse. This remains an American problem and we need some good old Yankee ingenuity to help our fellow citizens.
Posted By Anonymous Cynthia Delmar, Portland OR : 2:53 PM ET
I am a recent graduate from a midwestern medical school working as a first year resident in internal medicine. The governments, both federal and local, should consider offering debt relief to the many recent medical graduates who incur many thousands of dollars of debt in exchange for service in the Gulf Coast region. The experience would be second to none and both parties would benefit greatly.
Posted By Anonymous Tim Huck, Omaha, NE : 2:55 PM ET
It is apparent that federalism is a failed experiment. The federal government seems to only be good at giving subsidies to industries with the best lobbiests and for passing ludicrous and draconian laws; certainly not for helping people in need. So what is a poor state like Louisiana to do? Not alot apparently.

The moral is don't expect the federal government to be there no matter how bad things get.
Posted By Anonymous Michael Lowell, MA : 3:02 PM ET
Last night on the show, we learned that our injured soldiers can get medical help within minutes. I'm not saying they don't deserve it, they certainly do. But jutxaposed with this report, it certainly says something about this country's attention span and focus.

I'd like to think your reporting might bring some needed attention to this problem, Dr. Gupta. I'd like to think that. But I'll have to wait and see. Thus has the experiences of our fellow citizens in our own country made a cynic of me.
Posted By Anonymous Arachnae, Sterling VA : 3:04 PM ET
I hate to say this, but hospitals aren't much better here. My aunt waited on a gurney in a hallway for 16 hours with about 20 other patients. They actually assigned numbers to the spaces along the wall.

Your medical school professor should be disgusted with the entire state of healthcare in America today. It has become a commodity that only the wealthy can afford, like a yacht or a mansion. The rest of us wait in hallways. Fixing New Orleans would be like giving someone bleeding to death a BandAid.
Posted By Anonymous Sarah, Baltimore, MD : 3:04 PM ET
They should immediately implode the old charity hospital and build a new one with the money allotted for Katrina repair and donations. The city should just grant a contract and do it, sending the bill to GW Bush and the congress. Let them do all their haggling and posturing later, after it is built. Meanwhile, set up military mobile mash-type hospitals with reserve military people rotating in and out instead of sending them to stand around on the mexican border. Then, everyone DEMAND of their legislators that they get their priorites fixed!!
Posted By Anonymous Nancy, Dallas, Texas : 3:06 PM ET
The poor and indigent would not have to suffer if there were a national health care system. You can rest assured that if an affluent region of the country were destroyed medical care would be restored quickly. Money is the universal motivator. Why else are only the casinos rebuilt on the Gulf Coast one year after Katrina?
Posted By Anonymous Dr. Oliver Mayorga, Bronx, NY : 3:06 PM ET
Many of our city's trauma patiants are violent criminals injured in the act of committing violent crimes. Some say, "An eye for an eye." I have heard rumors that treatment of these trauma patiants is often lack-luster, and that staff pass these injured up, in favor of "less-guilty" patiants. Truth or just rumor... it doesn't seem to matter. The fact is this: Get injured in a shoot-out in New Orleans, and the injury is much more likely to be fatal post-Katrina than it was pre-Katrina. I hope all our criminals put away their guns and realize that there is nobody here to patch them up anymore.
Posted By Anonymous Chad, New Orleans, LA : 3:09 PM ET
Cynthia from OR has the right idea. I have a nephew just graduated from med school. Give them all a chance to help out. Rotate people so they don't burn out.
Posted By Anonymous Robin, Tecumseh, MI : 3:10 PM ET
I hate to say it, but how about if the US stopped worrying about what happens in other countries, and take care of its own people? That would help the people from Katrina, and other Americans.
Posted By Anonymous Jamie, Olive Branch, MS : 3:14 PM ET
Not enough beds? The hospital has not been repaired. What do you expect?
People have to wait for care? Not unusual. Waiting for care for non-life threatening care is the norm in all ER's. Quit whining.
It might get worse? Duh! Why are people going back before things are fixed? Is anyone making them? NO.
Quit whining and do what you can to help yourself.
Stop making things more volital by didcussing it.
S in Virginia
Posted By Anonymous Sue, Herdon, VA : 3:18 PM ET
Dr. Gupta,

I am sure you are aware that much of the wait in any ER today, regardless of locale, is due to non-emergent complaints. People with minor problems (some not even medical) present to the ER, and thanks to federal law (EMTALA) they must be given a medical screening exam. This abuse of the system creates an enormous burden on ER physicians who, in the interest of preventing malpractice claims or who simply need to get on to the next patient, provide million-dollar workups and/or admit to hospital beds people who don't need them. And don't forget all the folks who demand antibiotics for their viral symptoms.

Until we can reasonably impose triage criteria throughout all levels of healthcare (and free from fear of frivolous lawsuits), you and I should only expect the queue to grow.

Unfortunately, I think we're burdened with the medical system we deserve.
Posted By Anonymous Ian, New Orleans, LA : 3:19 PM ET
I would suggest to your CNN producers that this story should be the one running every night as opposed to Lou Dobbs feckless campaign against illegal aliens... what is the real crisis?? Perhaps if we kept on reminding everyone just how bad things are, then they would force their representatives to take a stand and do something.
Posted By Anonymous Bob Church Jr, Malverne NY : 3:23 PM ET
Send your letter to teaching schools.
Posted By Anonymous Karen Fitzpatrick, Herndon, VA : 3:23 PM ET
What another sad Katrina story.Lifes full of them.I remember in my own area my wife waited about 10 hours to recieve emergency treatment at a local hospital.No fear I kept myself entertained reading the signs in spanish that said who cared if you are an illegal,the hospital has to provide care for you anyway.Something seems wrong with that to me.I remember a wise man named Jack Klugman who said that his father died because he had no money.Seemed that those with money got treated in those days and those without didnt get treated.
Posted By Anonymous Bob, Dover, De : 3:24 PM ET
If we had a national minimum health care standard for all of our people, perhaps New Orleans would not be allowed to be existing in the state that it is in. Unfortunately we do not, and even more unfortunate, most of our population has short attention spans and no longer have a focus on this tragedy--well, remember it one day people, those of you who voted for the current establishment which allows such situations to exist. You too will one day be abandoned in an hour of need by those in power unless things change, because you voted with your pocketbook or for religious ideology, and not for the betterment of ALL people in our society.
Posted By Anonymous Mike Cowan, Houston TX : 3:25 PM ET
We can do this. Have CNN.com take donations for Charity 2.0 hospital. Have a prominent gauge (donation thermometer) and ask your readers to donate the cost of a cappachino. Many will donate more, although I am aware of donor fatigue.
Posted By Anonymous Sue, Rochester, MN : 3:32 PM ET
How many billions are wasted in Iraq, Afghanistan, on go nowhere pork projects by our less than impressive congressional leaders, on -insert your wasted government money project here? Seems like we could find some money to support a hospital. Its sad that we can not.
Posted By Anonymous Bob, Atlanta, GA : 3:34 PM ET
Perhaps the multinational Oil Companies (e.g. Exxon/Mobil, BP, Shell) can "donate" their enormous obscene profits toward the broken Healthcare system, since the cost of oil "is out of their control". I certainly wouldn't care if the name of my ER was called the "BP Emergency Care" if it meant that ALL patients would be able to have timely and effective care. Since the National and State governments can't seem to do it, perhaps public corporation sponsorship is the only way to start getting out of this mess.
Or perhaps, I'm only dreaming...
Posted By Anonymous Jay Seattle, WA : 3:35 PM ET
Nothing will happen in the U.S. as long as we have Republicans in power (even Republicans who voted for Bush the second time seem to be regretting it big time now.) Iraq and Afghanistan will implode as soon as the U.S. and British militaries leave, so why not leave now and save the money for what we need here?
Posted By Anonymous N. Wolfson, San Antonio Texas : 3:37 PM ET
Dr Gupta,

How about we bring our men and women back from Iraq and start taking care of ourselves! With the millions it costs each month in Irag, we could build new and improved hospitals for all!
Posted By Anonymous Karen Leadville, CO : 3:38 PM ET
I'm sure there aren't enough medical personel to work in New Orleans and that's got to be a huge problem. I suspect that a lot of people wouldn't want to go back to New Orleans and spend the time and money to rebuild only to have another hurricane wipe them away. I wouldn't go back there until I knew for sure the levees were rebuild "bigger and stronger". I don't have much faith that will happen and I'm sure many others don't either. Until such time, I doubt the state of their medical community will be back to normal.
Posted By Anonymous Lisa Tampa, Florida : 3:42 PM ET
Your professor's words are very true and that makes them all the more tragic. The situation in New Orleans is very dire, but unfortunately some of the things you describe are not problems of just the embattered city.

A few years back I was involved in a car crash and even though I arrived at the hospital via ambulance I still found myself left strapped to a backboard and pushed up against a hallway wall for hours before the only doctor in the place could come and make sure I didn't have a neck injury.

When I hear officials talk about plans for things like Avian Flu and other disasters I think back to my night in the ER. If it's that bad on a regular night, what will it be like during a disaster? After seeing the hospital situation in New Orleans how is anyone suppose to trust the city will be able to get through even a minor problem much less another hurricane?

If the measure of a society is how well they take care of their sick I'd rank this society as pretty poor.
Posted By Anonymous Stacy, St. Louis, MO : 3:44 PM ET
If the US can't handle a disaster covering only a couple states, what hope is there? Lets just get it out. People in America can be described by the following phrase: "out of site, out of mind" If it doesn't affect us directly, we don't care. Sure the news show all types of awful things, but, we're so used to such horrible broadcasting there is no shock value at all anymore. To Americans, the news is fictional television. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, America.
Posted By Anonymous Patrick, Oil City, PA : 3:44 PM ET
Dr. Gupta,
I agree with Jamie,s comment, our goverment needs to stop helping other countries and start helping the US more. Everyone but Anderson Copper,s show has forgotten the people of Katrina. You never haer about it anymore. Those people lost everything, jobs,homes . And Sue in Herdon, Va writes, stop whining and take care of yourself, how are they going to do that without help to get back on their feet. I feel so sorry for these people, we has the United States need to help them.
Posted By Anonymous Sandy Richmond, Va : 3:45 PM ET
Many of the stopgap measures discussed here have already been tried and proved inadequate. We had two Navy hospital ships here, the Hope and the Comfort, but they were here during the time the city was evacuated so there was no "business" for them. They left a month after the storm.
We had a mobile Combat Support Hospital at the Convention Center, and the tents and cots and staff were moved to the shopping mall next to the Superdome. They are still there, but they cannot handle trauma. Another mobile hospital was turned away at the state line on the order of our illustrious governor, so they set up shop in Mississippi.
A trauma center was opened about 8 miles from New Orleans, but they have a limited number of beds and regularly divert trauma patients to other hospitals.
As of now, there are 7 hospitals admitting patients, plus Children's Hospital. There used to be 14. Most don't have nearly the resources they need. I work at East Jefferson; we have all our services available, but we are consistently overfull and many patients and ambulances, like you say, wait.
To make matters worse, even though there is not even half of our pre-Katrina population back here, our violent crime rate has returned nearly to our pre-Katrina levels, putting a huge trauma burden on the open hospitals.
And further, most of the people in the waiting rooms are there to be seen for colds, the flu, tummy aches, rashes and tiny injuries like a sprained wrist. Imagine the frustration and danger when someone having a heart attack is out in the waiting room when the patient with the headache could have gone to the drugstore for Tylenol, but instead came to the ER!
I don't have a solution, but if you're coming to New Orleans, DON'T GET SICK!
Posted By Anonymous Sean Fitzmorris, RN, Paramedic, New Orleans, LA : 3:46 PM ET
You can call on the ranks of nurses that have left the profession. I, for one, would be willing to respond to the immediate crisis and long repair if you could assure me of the following:

1) That no attorney would EVER be permitted to sue me for coming in and helping.
2) That the situation be dealt with realistically and not based on unachievable standards that the legal system and medical system has laid out.
3) Have the government cover my bills & care for my home & manage my business while I'm gone.
4) Provide these nurses with truthful journalism and credit given to those that actually take care of the crisis instead of a politician or physician with a title.
5) Give me access to resources that you had while working on that soldiers brain that I just read about.
6) Give us respect & appreciation, and allow us to be real & not perfect.

We can fix it, Dr. Gupta. It really isn't that hard. Washington just needs to ask and then back us with the support that shows they really care about the people that care for this country.
Posted By Anonymous Carol Stemple, Ellicott City, MD : 3:47 PM ET
I usually don't respond to blogs because the comments are not worth it, but this one had some great ideas. I love the capuccino-meter for donations to build a hospital, plus selling the naming rights to an oil company. Add some immunity from lawsuits and credit hours for volunteers, along with a good screening system to detect legitimate injuries and I think you have a real plan.
Posted By Anonymous Steve, Memphis, TN : 4:09 PM ET
Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me.
With the results of New Orleans mayoral election just in, do the people of New Orleans really think the situation will get better? The rest of the country saw how New Orleans' mayor deals with a crisis.
Posted By Anonymous Chris, Little Rock, Arkansas : 4:35 PM ET
New Orleans is learning the hard way that only the profitable have been deemed worthy.

Healthcare corportations are in the business of making $$$ and it's not in their self interest or responsibility to give out much charity.

If the government won't help then these people will be left to be born, live and die without any dignity.
Posted By Anonymous liz, Montgomery, AL : 4:45 PM ET
Why this story not posted prior to the local election?
Posted By Anonymous J. Kallhoff Carlisle PA : 4:52 PM ET
Last I knew, hospitals were businesses. As a business owner, I have insurance to cover my premises, and even lost revenue. Do the hospitals not have this? If so, they should be rebuilding now. If not, shame on them, the DOJ should prosecute the CEO's of these hospitals for stupidity, if nothing else. In the interim, I agree with the MASH theory. Infrastructure will take awhile to recreate, so let's get at least a facility that can administer field level care and stabilize the patients until they can be transferred to another facility that has the level of care that they need. This is all short term resolution. The bigger picture requires much more knowledge that I am capable of. Recently, a 16 year old friend of our family shattered his leg in a bicycle accident. It took 3 days to get a pediatric surgeon to operate on him. Only 1 hospital in our area has pediatric surgeons, and we were at the mercy of his schedule. Sad in a country where we can order food at the Drive Thru and have it in hand within 1 minute. Nice priorities huh?
Posted By Anonymous Ken Peterson, Bangor, Maine : 4:56 PM ET
I am confident it is not a new idea, but why don't the U.S. spend a little time and effort in the U.S. and less in other countries that are only sqandering what we do send. Stop saving lives in third world rouge countries untill we have saved all of the American citizens we can inside our boarders. The U.S. deserving tax paying citizens would be happier and the others will realize what it would be like to be without our generous help.
Posted By Anonymous wes, Jonesboro, Arkansas : 5:17 PM ET
I also agree with Jamie:
"I hate to say it, but how about if the US stopped worrying about what happens in other countries, and take care of its own people? That would help the people from Katrina, and other Americans."

The US cannot be expected to save the world; that is not our mission. Our resources need to be applied to improving medical care and education in the US. Poverty ravages much of our country - cities and rural areas alike. With so many wealthy corporations in our country, it's horrible that there are so many people who must do without the basic necessities of life.

I can't begin to understand man's inhumanity to man in the world's wealthiest country. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, especially when so much of the country swears allegiance to God and claims to be Christian. If people are going to talk the talk, they need to learn to walk the walk; they need to LIVE their religion, not just tell everyone how important their faith is to them.
Posted By Anonymous Deb, Richmond VA : 5:19 PM ET
My heart goes out to the people of New Orleans for all they have had to endure. As far as the medical situation goes, they sound like they (the people of New Orleans) are worse off than many of us, but not by much as far as healthcare in this country as a whole. I have worked in the medical field for many years and have sat back and watched the deterioration. I worked for a wonderful, caring Doctor who, when his own father was critically ill had the smarts to actually stay in the hospital with him and demand the proper care be administered. The healthcare profession in this country needs a complete overhaul. Let's start with corporate America (Insurance companies) being taken out of healthcare decisions. Doctor's today cannot even order the tests that they feel are needed to make a diagnosis due to businessmen, not doctors, making this decision on behalf of human beings. I ask you what is wrong with that picture? Yes, even Americans who are lucky enough to have insurance, do not always get the medical testing i.e. bloodwork, scans, xrays, etc. due to businessmen's uneducated (money is the bottom line) guess work. Something must be done to stop these insurance companies from making, in some cases, life and death decisions. Do insurance companies really think that doctors just run tests for the fun of it? Insurance companies only care about the monetary angle. Guess I regressed, could not help it...as far as waiting times go at hospitals, most hospitals are sadly understaffed, gee...wonder why? Poor working conditions? Poor paychecks? A system that treats most employees if they sould not be a doctor or PA or RN, etc. with total disregard? Take the nursing shortage for instance! For some reason the powers that be think all nurses should be RN's? (Heaven forbid!). Why? Most RN's I have worked with are so involved in paperwork that they absolutely have no idea what is going on with patients. Nurses in this country do not even know that they as a class could actually impact medical care and their own well being, if ever they stopped fighting among themselves. Trust me, nurses eat their young (if you ever worked in the medical field you will know what I mean). Do I have an answer for New Orleans or the rest of the country at this point in time? Well, I feel that by taking decisions out of insurance companies hands, the medical profession as a whole coming together to benefit the patients would certainly help. Can this be done? I think so. If, as I remember hearing, a character in history made the trains run on time, we can certainly get the medical profession on track! Rule of thumb: PATIENT'S FIRST!
Posted By Anonymous Moe, Liverpool NY : 5:22 PM ET
For pity's sake, can't we get the hell out of Iraq and use the money to build and staff a hospital here at home?
Posted By Anonymous LeAnn, Libby, MT : 5:33 PM ET
Yes, why don't we just stop caring what happens in other countries and only look inward. Spend all that money we're wasting overseas and put it all here.

That worked great before WWII when we let the Nazis conquer 1/2 the world. I'm sure it would work even better when the people we abandon in Iraq turn into the very terrorists we're trying to fight.

Heck, we might as well stop all trade with China while we're at it. I'm sure that would go over VERY WELL.
Posted By Anonymous Chad, Dallas, TX : 5:33 PM ET
If the situation is so bad, why can't Army field hospitals be moved in?
Posted By Anonymous d. Frederick, Greensboro, NC : 5:34 PM ET
Even though I am in Canada, I have been keeping up to date with the unfortunate events that still plague the people in New Orleans. The entire situation is still, in my opinion, the fault of the bureacracy/politicians. They love to talk,talk,talk but still now, they cannot provide any action.
How those who are the powers that be, can sit idle & not do anything of signifigance is beyond me. These people are after all, in the back yard & not thousands of miles away. The resources should be utilized on home turf! Just my two cents!
Posted By Anonymous Kimberly, Edmonton, AB Canada : 7:50 PM ET
i dont know what you are talking about or if maybe you mean old orleans instead of new orleans. my mom fell on the sidewalk on royal street and no she was not drunk. we took her to the hospital and she was in and out in about three hours they even wanted to do surgery right there. what the heck are you talking about?
Posted By Anonymous dave athens oh : 8:16 PM ET
Dr Gupta,
Thanks so much for drawing attention to the medical crisis we are facing here in New Orleans. I am a pediatric resident at Children's Hospital- the first fully functional hospital to reopen in N.O. after Katrina. The problem we are facing is not just lack of facilities but also lack of people to work in them. People don't think about it but not only do you need nurses and doctors to see patients but you also need housekeepers, maintenance, even operators to keep a hospital functional. The other problem we face in New Orleans is that many people have lost their primary care doctors (whether they can't find their new office or the doctor has moved out of town). These people are often seeking their primary care in ERs across the area and causing a major "bed traffic jam" of sorts.
Keep thinking about us. We are working hard to get our city back and better than ever!
Posted By Anonymous Rachel Dawkins, MD New Orleans, LA : 8:37 PM ET
I volunteer the reps from my state to donate the million dollars they got for our teapot museum to medical care in NO.
But then, what would happen to our teapots?
Posted By Anonymous Anne Gray Charlotte, NC : 9:07 PM ET
The photo accompanying your post says it all. Do we have to TELL people not to smoke in a hospital? And how many people are packin' heat in that city anyway?

Can you inform viewers in your report why it is that the many billions of dollars in premiums that these hospitals have paid into insurance are not covering their re-construction costs? Thank you.
Posted By Anonymous Tina - chgo IL : 9:11 PM ET
Close down New Orleans for good, move everyone North of Lake Pontchartrain, destroy the levees and say goodbye. Baton Rouge can be the new Big Easy.
Posted By Anonymous R. Logan, Honolulu, HI : 9:27 PM ET
It's hard to believe that the most negative comments are coming from people who have do not live in New Orleans. Ironically, the most hopeful comments stem from New Orleanians, the people with the most reason to be discouraged. As far as the hospitals go- If there has been a life-threatening situation, I doubt that any patient has been kept waiting. I have not heard of such a case. As long as no one has died as a result of the wait, the situation is under control. Residents in the new New Orleans expect inconveniences, but these inconveniences are sacrifices that we're willing to make in order to live in one of the most beautiful and culturally diverse cities in the the world. We're all so glad to be back! And I think it's terrible that tourism in the city is down primarily due to all of the negative media coverage. There is STILL no better place to have fun, party, shop, and EAT! The French Quarter and Uptown were virtually untouched so tourism should be booming now. If you're reading this, come see for yourself! And anyone who doesn't actually live in the city should keep their mouth shut if they have something negative to say. Or if they feel so strongly, perhaps they should volunteer their time in the rebuilding efforts.
Posted By Anonymous Alison Phillips, New Orleans, LA : 9:52 PM ET
Dr. Gupta,

As the Medical Director of Emergency Services for the largest community hospital in the state of Louisiana, I am very grateful to you for bringing this crisis to public attention. Even where I am located in Baton Rouge, we struggle to accomodate large volumes of displaced persons unable to access healthcare except through hospital Emergency Departments. Our Mission remains to address all concerns of anyone in need of care, regardless of ability to pay. We see our systems bending to the strain as we acutely experience the inability of our governement at all levels to create a system that allows underprivileged people to receive appropriate, timely care. I watch healthcare workers struggle both physically and mentally to overwhelming volumes, raw emotions from frustrated, waiting patients, and the reality of never seeing a "light at the end of the tunnel." Rest assured that at hospitals like our own, we are using our private resources to accomodate the needs of the people here as well as the people of New Orleans. We are setting up a clinic and Urgent Care Center in St. Bernard Parish, one of the hardest hit areas, to assist the people of New Orleans. The cure of the healthcare system in New Orleans will be directly related to the the successful building of the other areas of infrastructure destroyed by Katrina. Hospitals need employees to operate. Employees need transportation to work, apartments to live in, grocery stores to buy food. Improvement of the healthcare delimma is dependent upon so many other parameters required to make a society function. When our leaders can organize and initiate a global infrastructure development, we will see the development of better healthcare provision. Until then, those of us committed to the successful "Renaissance" of New Orleans will endeavor to do our best to provide for our communities.

Kindest regards,
Posted By Anonymous Jim Rhorer, MD, Medical Director of Emergency Services, Our Lady of the Lake RMC, Baton Rouge, LA : 9:59 PM ET
It's obvious that the New Orleans medical infrastructure is at capacity and a short term solution is not possible or conceivable. Therefore, the President and Congress can offer emergency tax incentives to the private sector to accomplish anything that needs to get done. How about retro-fitting jet aircraft for critical care medical transport to hospitals in other states and offering tax incentives to medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, airlines, and receiving hospitals to pay for the conversions, transport services, and subsidized medical care of the uninsured. This could open up more bed space for the short term less critical care patients in New Orleans and get the long term acute care out to better facilities.

We have plenty of beds and even empty hospital buildings in Denver. Wasted space if not used, plus it would help our employment roles. Just make sure they bring some Cajun food wid'em. We only got store bought here.
Posted By Anonymous Larry, Denver CO : 10:02 PM ET
There are hundreds of hospital beds that could be opened right now in New Orleans, for example in a portion of University Hospital right next to LSUHSC. Believe it or not, there are doctors who NEED PATIENTS at LSUHSC. The problem is just for the state to OPEN THIS HOSPITAL-
Immediately!

And I am sick of people on islands in the Pacific and in San Francisco telling us to give up and abandon this city. There is danger where you live too- it will be tomorrow's news- and then you will be saying, "rebuild", not relocate SF to another part of California...
Posted By Anonymous Iris Lindberg, New Orleans : 10:05 PM ET
I was in New Orleans during Katrina. It is truly shameful that the situation is still grave after nine months. I see so many good ideas here on the blog, but unfortunatley the state and local govt is either too proud or inept to ask for further physical assistance and the Fed Govt's attention span has lapsed and moved on to the next issue du jour. Yes, USNS COMFORT was underutilised in the Gulf in '05, but she is dockside in Baltimore right now and the USNS MERCY is providing humanitarian assistance to SE Asian countries right now. Perhaps you need to get your own house in order first!
Posted By Anonymous Bob C, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia : 10:08 PM ET
Dr. Gupta - until the US steps up and acknowledges that Katrina REALLY happened and it hasn't been corrected, there is absolutely nothing that can be done there. CNN - in particular AC360's show has forced America to keep looking at the problem. We've moved on to other stories and New Orleans just isn't high up on the important issues list with people any longer. For those of us neighbors who live close by, who've taken in the displaced, who's children go to school with our children - we're more than aware.

As for medical care in New Orleans...Mayor Nagin needs to step up and ensure the safety of his community. That includes providing QUALITY health care to those living and working in that community. New Orleans has an uphill battle for reconstruction, one that may not make it.

Keep shining the light...it's the only way to keep the world aware. Maybe someday we'll care more about this subject and leave Brad and Angelina and their children alone to live their life and pay attention to the impmortant issues at hand!
Posted By Anonymous Kay, Houston, TX : 4:22 PM ET
Gee this sounds like Canada! Here in Victoria, BC it is not unusual to wait a minimum of 3 hours to 7 hours to be seen by a doctor in emergency. When my wife slipped on ice and broke her leg, - it took over 3 hours for her to be seen by a physician. It's like the admitting staff don't understand what "triage" means! And this is a normal day! No major catastrophies or natural disasters! Imagine if we did have a major disaster - it would be indescribable. Emergency health care system in BC is a joke.
Posted By Anonymous Bruce, Victoria, B.C : 4:05 PM ET
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