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BS: One Triumph Over Bureaucracy!

05 Sep 05 - 09:13 PM (#1557090)

My nephew the paramedic, and his wife the EMT are now FINALLY on their way to a hospital in Baton Rouge! They have been trying to get cleared since last Wednesday to go in. Unbelievable.

Here is where they are headed:

Hospital at LSU faces shutdown if volunteers flee

Doctors seeing more critical patients

Advocate staff writers

By the time the last evacuee leaves hurricane-wrecked New Orleans, the makeshift hospital that's sprung up on the LSU campus will be winding down, a state official said Saturday.
Nobody's even guessing when helicopters and ambulances will stop delivering thousands of sick or injured evacuees from disaster areas to LSU's Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

If that's not soon, about 500 local doctors and nurses will have to decide whether to continue volunteering at the temporary medical center or tend to their own practices.

The arena-turned-hospital has enough government-issue doctors to keep it running, but the loss of volunteers would put a dent in the force of a few hundred doctors and nurses who staff the 200-bed facility, said Roxane Townsend, a representative of the Department of Health and Hospitals.

"I think that everybody's going to have to get back to their routine business of life," Townsend said

Inside the PMAC Saturday evening, large posterboard signs marked the intensive care unit, pediatric ward and other sections crudely separated by portable screens on the floor of the stadium.

There's a pharmacy, stockpiles of catheters and medical supplies, a place to do basic bloodwork and X-rays and sleeping quarters for the hundreds of volunteers.

Early Saturday evening, small groups of doctors and nurses talked by rows of empty roller beds, waiting for a deluge of patients from the Louis Armstrong International Airport expected to arrive within the hour.

Hundreds of casualties tend to arrive at once at the improvised hospital, doctors reported.

Almost all of the injured coming out of New Orleans and other devastated areas are brought to the PMAC first to be decontaminated, fed, examined, treated and released to other, more long-term care facilities.

Doctors work quickly.

The ill and wounded are in and out in about three hours, said William Erwin, a doctor with Our Lady of the Lake.

"Patients can't stay here long," Erwin said. "The really sick go to (the Baton Rouge) General or Lake."

But those who come in with more minor injuries are often discharged, according to some volunteers.

Volunteer Jim Flanagan said the center is efficient at admitting and treating patients, but those not moving on to other medical facilities get little direction.

The city's shelters are already overrun.

Townsend said workers focus on the most urgent needs of patients -- medical care -- but the center is getting more organized on the peripheral services.

Long hours take their toll on doctors, who will have even more to think about Tuesday when Baton Rouge starts to wake up and their regular patients require care, Erwin said.

Louis Minsky, a Baton Rouge physician who is working with the city-parish Emergency Operations Center, said the makeshift hospital is staffed largely with volunteer nurses and doctors who will likely be returning to their regular jobs next week.

Minsky said Saturday that most Baton Rouge residents have been busy this week cleaning up after the storm and taking care of their families. But Minsky predicted that by Tuesday, a large number of Baton Rougeans will return to their normal routines, including going to the doctor.

When that happens, the PMAC could find itself with a shortage of doctors and nurses.

"There are some military doctors and nurses there, but if the volunteers all walked away, there aren't enough to keep the PMAC operating," Minsky said.

Minsky said in the days immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit Southeastern Louisiana, most of the people taken to the PMAC were suffering from exhaustion, stress and malnutrition.

But in recent days, Minsky said, the medical crews at the PMAC are handling more serious ailments, such as strokes, pulmonary problems, cardiac arrests and abdominal ailments.

"The information that I'm getting today is that there are at least 50,000 people left in New Orleans, and many of them are very sick," Minsky said.

As of Saturday afternoon, Minsky said there were cases of cholera or other infectious diseases, but noted that there's a growing concern about such problems with bodies, dead animals and waste in the floodwaters around New Orleans.

Townsend said any lull in the onslaught of evacuees allows state planners to consider the best ways to rebuild Louisiana's crippled healthcare system once the immediate needs are met by the LSU center.

"We've lost an entire health care system for a quarter of the population of Louisiana," she said. "We feel like we have resources that will help us take care of all these folks who want to stay here in Baton Rouge."

She said New Orleans-area physicians and nurses will need jobs and will be able to help care for a bloated hospital population.

05 Sep 05 - 09:32 PM (#1557100)
From: Sorcha

But, for the Drs left in NO, are there any people for their 'practice'???

05 Sep 05 - 09:53 PM (#1557111)
From: Stilly River Sage

Yes. Lots of them. There was an interesting interview on News and Notes on NPR about Dr. Joe Freeman and his attempts to set up a clinic in the refugee center in Jennings, LA, right outside the New Orleans boundary.

This is the blurb at the link:

    Doctor's Mission: Help Hurricane Survivors
    As relief efforts continue along the Gulf Coast, Dr. Joe Freeman is doing everything he can to help. The Louisiana physician talks with Farai Chideya.


05 Sep 05 - 10:05 PM (#1557119)

Well, it is so hard to get a handle on what is happening on the ground now. They may go into a situation where thousands are still coming through the LSU triage, or a trickle (though they have been assured, they haven't seen any trickles so far). Also, we don't know if they will be stationed at the hospital, flying in and out of the hospital to medical evacuation sites in the city or what.

A lot of nursing homes and hospitals are still being evacuated I guess, and the folks coming in now are much more ill than the majority of the people who came through last week.

Also, the situation with the paramedics is different than the doctors and nurses on the ground at the triage unit, who stay put. Paramedics are often assigned here, there and everywhere there is a need. They will be there at least a week, possibly as long as a month.

We had other great news today. My sister-in-law is now exhausted and home at the Mother House in Philly. My nephew has surfaced in Biloxi. He chose not to be evacuated with the other recruits (he just started training a couple weeks before the hurricane) from Keesler in Biloxi. He is staying to help with base and community clean up duty. Apparently, there isn't much left of the base.

So, what more can you ask for after a disaster like this? Our loved ones have made it through so far, and a couple of them are choosing to volunteer with the aftermath.

Which reminds me, all of you can find out from your state hospital associations (hopefully) if paramedic units have been sent from your states, and you can help fundraise for them. For instance, my nephew & his wife won't be paid by their employer while they are gone. But even those who are, paramedics don't make near what doctors and nurses make (especially the ones just beginning their careers). So you can do local fundraising for your state's emergency medical response team to go down there.

Also, there is a national fund set up in the wake of 9/11 for the survivors of paramedics who died. The fund is still active, and donations for this disaster will go to aid the local paramedics in the disaster region who lost their homes, jobs, etc. I'll post the info on where donations can be sent later, if people are interested in seeing their donations go straight to the folks on the front line.