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
ABOUT THE BLOGGet a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
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