I have a friend who managed to escape the city of New Orleans a couple of days after the storm. She is on staff at Charity Hospital, which you have no doubt heard about in the news by now.She sent this correspondence because she thinks the plight of Charity Hospital, which makes its reputation by healing the poor and uninsured of the city, is being overlooked by the national media, which (of course) is bent on sensationalizing everything in lieu of ratings. This is a short, but powerful blog entry she sent me.
Just so you know, I’m out of New Orleans, fine and in Nashville until further notice.
I am writing to get the word out. As most of you know, I am doing my residency at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. It is a state hospital that serves mostly the poor, and is an integral part of the Gulf Coast health care. Throughout Katrina’s terror, I have been able to talk with one ER doc who has been at Charity since Sunday.
It is 5a.m. Friday morning now. I just got off the phone with him. He is doing well, but is still at the hospital. His outgoing message is (approximately)the following:
“Hey this is Roderick Bennett. Once again, thanks for all your support…for an update, everything is looking a little better,we’ve got some military here, I’m a little worried, as they send us outta here they are talking about making us just like everyone else and sending us along with those who were shooting at us. If anyone knows some way to help us, like sending us to another city, hey, we’d greatly appreciate it…”
In our esteemed Charity ER there are 14 volunteer physicians. They began with 41 patients and then closed the ER, which meant they could not treat anyone during this horrific week. (Please don’t forget, there are to many other physicans and patients on the other wards of the hospital too) They have been in terrible conditions for almost a week. Until yesterday (Thursday) afternoon, there were no armed guards protecting them from gunmen who were after drugs, food and water. They have been hearing that they would be evacuated soon. In fact, when I spoke with the Senators office on Wednesday, I was told that all the hospitals would be evacuated by sundown that day. It is now Friday.
Tulane hospital, a private hospital less than a block away was mostly evacuated as of yesterday.
Here is the gist of my conversation with Dr. Bennett this morning:
He is terribly disappointed at being left behind. About half of the patients were evacuated today. There was a sudden halt when guns were being fired nearby. All but 4 critically ill ICU patients have been evac’d. He expresses deep concern of the lack of haste for lonely , poor old New Orleans. There is no estimated evacuation time at this point.
I am dismayed that our city, which everyone KNEW this would happen to someday, has been thrashed because of poor planning, and little concern. This is dire.
PLEASE forward this to anyone who can spread it, blog it, cover it. On CNN today, one anchor began talking about Race and Class and it’s link to this devastation. The situation at Charity is a perfect example.