Thursday, October 13, 2005

Interview with physician who was in Charity Hospital during Katrina aftermath

Dr. Ruth Berggren,who is on the staff at Charity and faculty at Tulane, give an audio sketch of her days in Big charity In New Orleans as everything fell to pieces after Katrina hit.An audio presentation is available-I think only to subscribers-at the NEJM site. It is worth listening to. Her first hand account points to the pivotal role of gun fire and snipers in aborting the effort to get patients - and everyone else- out in a timely manner. I have written before about the heroics of the medical personal at Charity at this time. She gives her voice to what took place. There was no power, little food and water, a diarrhea outbreak among patients with no working plumbing, heat, darkness, needing to practice medicine in the dark bereft of laboratory assistance and- incredibly- fear of men with guns. The hospital personnel and patients were abandoned on a hellish island. City and state governmental officials-either powerless or ignorant of their plight- were not to their immediate aid. Were there no plans in place to evacuate the critical patients in the event of a catastrophe? Finally on 9/3/05 staff and patients were evacuated. For decades the poor and uninsured in Louisiana relied on Charity Hospital for medical care. We now learn that Charity has been declared past the point of salvage and recovery and can only be torn down. The state of Louisiana talks of plans to build a new hospital. It now looks like many more patients than the ones in hospital on the day the levees broke may be abandoned at least for now.

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