Dear President Bush,
How did your crackerjack team perform in responding to the widespread devastation caused by Hurricane Boudreaux? Did your team get the information they wanted in a timely manner? Did they have answers to your Katrina questions regarding how hospital patients fared post landfall? Did they mobilize other government leaders as the offers of international aid poured in? Was Condi paged from her shoe purchasing trip to New York to assist communication with other world leaders wishing to help?
Last summer the nation watched the plight of thousands of hospital patients and staff struggling to survive in dead and dangerous health care facilities. Having evacuated a mid sized Texas Gulf Coast hurricane pre-monster storm landfall and endured in a powerless river flooded teaching hospital, I had great compassion for those trapped by Katrina’s floodwaters. Since the disaster that unnecessarily claimed the lives of many hospital patients, I have looked closely for changes.
With all the drills, plans, and updates conducted in preparation for the 2006 hurricane season, hospital patient handling has been conspicuously absent from the media reports. From what little I have been able to find out, it appears hospitals are responsible for their own patient evacuation both pre and post storm. The May 29th issue of Time Magazine seems to sum it up best with its piece titled “You’re on Your Own”.
I can understand hospitals needing to do their best with pre-storm evacuations. The problem arises when the projected impact area is a city with thousands of hospital beds. Likely, state and local resources alone will not be able to move that many patients in a 2-3 day window. In some cases despite heroic efforts to evacuate patients pre-storm, up to 50% of patients could remain in facilities within the impact zone. Post storm flooded hospitals are completely dependent on outsiders to assist them, whether they be local, state, and federal.
So what happened with hospital patients in your Hurricane Boudreaux drill? You are aware of the numerous Boudreaux jokes in Cajun country. I hope your drill turns out to not be just another one.