Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Rebuilding a storm-ravaged healthcare system
It is hard to believe that it has been two years since Katrina. I was at Charity hospital immediately after the storm and saw firsthand what happened to patients who had been forgotten. (Watch my 2005 report) Charity hospital was a New Orleans institution, not only training generations of doctors, but also taking care of the poor and indigent. I watched as these patients waited for days on top of a parking deck in the August sun, while doctors tried to keep them alive by pushing air into their lungs for hours on end. Many times, they lost that battle, and I saw patients die - while waiting to be rescued.

Over the last two years, I have been to New Orleans several times, focusing on the medical and health recovery. Truth is, I thought things would be better by now. I learned that Charity would never open again, reportedly too damaged by the floodwaters. I watched as a few hospitals re-opened, three out of seven, with only one near full capacity. I watched as so many mentally ill patients compete for remarkably few resources and still go untreated. Most shockingly, I watched as the death rates continued to go up, not down.

In fact, according to a new study published in an American Medical Association journal, the death rates went up 47 percent for months after Katrina hit. Doctors on the ground attribute it to untreated disease, few resources and absent physicians. Patients, who should have lived died premature deaths. They are still dying. I have spoken to patients, doctors working in the emergency rooms, and the man charged with rebuilding the health care system. While there is a cautious optimism, there is a real sense that too little has been done two years later. What do you think? Will New Orleans be able to rebuild their health care system? Any suggestion how to do that?

For more on the death rate in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta's report on Anderson Cooper 360 tonight at 10 p.m. ET
I owned a condo in Orange beach that was destroyed by hurricane Georges. I got no government help in rebuilding. It took just under 3 years to rebuild. So, expect that it will take at least another year for any kind of improvement.
As sad as it is that the death rate is not going down in New Orleans, I think we have give thanks to the Doctors, Nurses and all Medical Staff who have stayed in New Orleans. As destructive as the hurricane was, no one should have stayed in that city. Kudos to all the professionals who stuck around and are still trying to keep New Orleans alive
Dear Dr. Sanjay Gupta,

The Katrina affected regions are treated as a whole separate entity from the rest of the Untied States. Even the health-care system suffers from it. The best way I can think of rebuilding and restructuring of both health-care and educational system is through the help and means of non-profit organizations. It’s going to take ages before the next elections and re-assembling of the next senate. There are special ADA drug-programs who provide people with affordable generic pharmaceuticals. It is possible.

Basically I have no clue what a good government structured health-care system should look like in the United States, neither does any one else. Any ideas?
We can't even get the healthcare system to work in the U.S. so there's no way New Orleans will ever be rebuilt. Our healthcare costs are so outrageous. I spend $60 a month on an HMO and my company pays the rest (a whole lost rest - thankfully) yet my birthcontrol pills cost $40 per month! No wonder there are so many unwanted pregnancies...how many people can afford that?!
Dr. Gupta: I share your concern regarding the Katrina aftermath. The microbial problem these individuals face include molds, bacteria, protozoa, endotoxins, mycotoxins, glucans, among many others. Both in vivo and in vitro research as demonstrated synergism with respect to these toxins. The issue is not allergy, but actual organ damage, including the CNS. The problems is the CDC, EPA as well as FEMA are not willing to listen. The latest by FEMA is the denial of the formaldehyde issue in the trailers that were made available to the citizens of the area. I could go on and on, but at least you and a few others are attempting to correct the matter.
You said in your report that New Orleans beared the brunt of of Katrina, but that is simply untrue. While the city was impacted severely, I am growing tired of the media forgetting to mention the how the gulf coast of Mississippi was completely destroyed. Perhaps Mississippi's recovery isn't as important to the media as New Orleans' because they actually picked up after the storm and got to work?
I recognize the New Orleans problems but what of the Mississippi Gulf Coast? Are the hospitals there 'up and running' with the same quality of care as pre-Katrina?
One way to respond to the healthcare crisis in New Orleans is to reopen Charity. Military units who routinely set up field hospitals, working with doctors and nurses, felt that Charity could be operational again shortly after Katrina - there are certainly some damaged areas, but a million square foot hospital and her generations' history of caring is available for retooling. While it may be the wish of the controlling entity to close the hospital and walk away, it is certainly not the right thing to do. I am a proud Charity graduate, and I know first hand the experience and dedication of her staff and students. What a shame to waste such a tremendous resource - bring back the building, the students, and the staff.
I live in New Orleans and work at one of the few operational hospitals and we are working on getting Baptist back up and running. I agree that Mississippi got the brunt of Katrina but what people cannot seem to understand, or flat out do not wish to understand is the fact that had the Federal levees held AFTER Katrina moved on we would not be in the situation that we are in now. Kudos for Mississippi getting back up as fast as they did, they didn't soak in floodwaters for a month or longer like New Orleans did. Our damage was wrought by the Corps. of Engineers and ultimately the Government since our levee system was 30 years behind schedule.
To those of you complaining that New Orleans gets all the attention... Listen, I know that large portions of many Gulf Coast cities and towns were blown away. It was awful, and there is more than enough heartbreak to go around. I have to say, though, that this is an entirely different issue. First, we're talking about several days of standing water, trapped and putrifying in a major American city. Second, we're talking about a major urban center complete with all of its preexisting urban problems -- problems much more severe than the rest of the country would have believed until they were exposed by the storm's aftermath. It is unseemly to whine about the cities and towns of Mississippi and elsewhere not getting enough of the Katrina media coverage. People all accross the Gulf South have struggled, but New Orleans is a special case. Sorry, but that's just the way it is. I'm not saying the amount of grief is larger (although the death toll obviously is). New Orleans faces a different set of challenges. Plenty of people in New Orleans "got to work" after the storm, many gutting and rebuilding on their own when insurance failed to come through.
New Orleans is a shining example of the failings of our political system when faced with adversity, and to blame it all on the "locals" is just a cop out.
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