Wednesday, March 29, 2006

White House Lessons Learned Report is a Disaster in Itself

What if the officer responding to the largest traffic accident in American history just wrote this in his accident report, "It was an unprecedented disaster"? Would that cut the mustard? In this fictional wreck hundreds of people are injured and in need of assistance. What if the 911 operators simply tell callers "You are on your own"?

What are the people standing above the immobile victim with a possible back or neck injury to do? They would do the best they could, even in horrific situations. Later they would want to know why no medical emergency personnel and equipment were available.

What if that investigation simply said "local, state, and federal officials need to coordinate better in the future in cases of unprecedented disasters"? What if the report just threw in a few hero stories and the facts regarding how many people died? With no analysis of who was responsible, no critique of the actions they took, how are people to learn from what happened so they can do better next time?

The fictitious incident above is the all government response to Hurricane Katrina. The accident report is the White House's Lessons Learned analysis. In the case of hospital and nursing home patient evacuations and subsequent deaths it is sorely lacking. It does not state who was responsible for pre-storm or post landfall evacuations, nor does it evaluate the parties' actions in light of their responsibilities.

The disaster response evaluation is in itself "a disaster" when it comes to hospital and nursing home patients. How are parties to do better next time when basic responsibilities are not outlined and contentious issues resolved? I noted FEMA is conducting hurricane preparations along the Gulf Coast, including training of local and state emergency preparedness staff. As your report gives them no information in this area, what will the FEMA staff do? How will they train hospital and nursing home staff on pre and post hurricane evacuations? The long term care association got it right with the theme for their recent disaster preparedness meeting. It was titled "Beyond Lessons Learned".

Would you wonder why the report was so inept? Is their ability to conduct a post accident investigation as pitiful as their initial response? Are they trying to cover something up?
Might the White House be sheltering LifeCare Hospitals as 24 patients died in their long term acute hospital? The company was purchased by The Carlyle Group, the famously politically connected investment house, in August 2005 before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. Does it benefit LifeCare and the Carlyle Group for the White House Lessons Learned report to be so vague on this issue?

I would imagine the LifeCare defense attorneys are thankful the analysis did not clearly identify responsible parties, much less evaluate their performance. A complete and competent investigation report from the White House might indict their client or even the cast the federal government in a poor light. But then again, this administration is not noted for its investigative prowess.

1 comment:

dusty said...

The fact that media people were all over the hurricane area but not one FEMA official said volumes to me. The Shrub's folks tried to say they couldn't get in, they couldn't make contact, etc..yet the media did it from the first day after the hurricane. The 10,000 trailers still sitting idle is pathetic and another hurricane season is upon us. The money spent on the report you mention plus the money spent by the congressional group that looked into it was a huge waste of time and our tax dollars. Fiscal responsibilty has never been the Shrub's highpoint..not in texas and not in the whitehouse.