Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Three Arrested for Patient Deaths in New Orleans Post Katrina

The Louisiana Attorney General reported two nurses and a doctor have been arrested and will be charged with second degree murder for their role in patient deaths post Hurricane Katrina. Memorial Medical Center staff and patients suffered in horrific conditions for 4 days without power in sweltering facilities. Temperatures inside the hospital rose to over 100 degrees during their wait for rescue. The three were booked on 4 counts each.

Thirty four patients died during and after the storm in Memorial. Ten were Memorial Medical Center patients. The hospital is owned by Tenet Healthcare while the other twenty four deaths happened on the LifeCare Hospitals unit in the same facility. LifeCare had just been purchased by the Carlyle Group weeks before Katrina struck.

Neither Memorial Medical Center, Tenet, LifeCare nor the Carlyle Group are mentioned once in the President’s Hurricane Katrina Lessons Learned Report. The report did not include an analysis of who was responsible for patient evacuations pre and post landfall, nor did it evaluate their performance. Having left out the basic components of an investigation, it made no specific recommendations on how to prevent future hospital and nursing home deaths.

Why would the White House give Tenet and LifeCare a free pass by not mentioning either in its Lessons Learned report? Could insider connections be a factor? The current and past Bush administrations have many ties to leadership at the Carlyle Group. Carlyle’s corporate office shares a Pennsylvania Avenue address. Are they appreciative of the federal government’s non-position on their patient deaths as they face upcoming civil suits for wrongful death? The defense lawyers must be thankful they don’t have to enter court with the federal government having already weighed in on who’s responsible.

How can incidents worthy of criminal charges not warrant specific mention in the President’s analysis, report and recommendations? No one said why it took four days for the staff and patients to be rescued from a stinking, sweltering death trap. I wonder if the Attorney General will be exploring that question. The President already abdicated his responsibility in that area.

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