Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wahoo Wah Kenneth Wainstein, New Homeland Security Adviser

It turns out President Bush's new Homeland Security Adviser, Kenneth Wainstein, and I share the same alma mater, the University of Virginia. Maybe Ken can answer questions his predecessor, Frances Townsend wouldn't touch.

I graduated in 1980 with a B.S. in Commerce, while Ken got his degree in 1984. After that I got a Masters in Hospital Administration while Wainstein went to law school. Those degrees put us on course to interact today.

As a health care leader, I endured in a dead river flooded 725 bed hospital in Roanoke, Virginia. Years later, I helped evacuate a 165 bed facility on the Texas Gulf Coast. Hurricane Gilbert was predicted to make landfall at our heliport. Fortunately it turned away from Texas but I found out how difficult evacuating a hospital can be, even with plenty of lead time.

Summer of 2005 I found myself appalled as hospital patients and staff lingered in dead New Orleans' facilities post Hurricane Katrina. While I peppered the White House with e-mails, Kenneth's predecessor flew on a plane to Saudi Arabia. The Homeland Security adviser had little to do with managing the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, but Fran had a lot to do with the follow up "investigative report". President Bush promised a robust look into the federal performance, bit Townsend's tome left off the ro. It was simply a bust.

My questions arose after reading her Lessons Learned report. How could she leave out the hospital with the highest number of patient deaths post landfall? Why did patients linger so long in a steamy, toxic soup? It takes little time for a powerless hospital to become a death trap. Then little pieces began falling into place. LifeCare Hospital with its 24 patient deaths had been acquired by The Carlyle Group just weeks before landfall. Would they benefit from the omission as they entered court for numerous wrongful death lawsuits?

I have many more questions but I don't want to overwhelm my fellow Wahoo right off. I just hope he doesn't wipe out any of Fran's e-mails between August 2005 and April 2006.

Kenneth is likely a busy man, with lots of new duties. He's been charged with improving our emergency preparedness and may have some leftover clean up work to do on Katrina. As LifeCare blames the feds for those wrongful deaths, Mr. Wainstein could be preparing to testify on the government's behalf. The Carlyle's attorneys assert LifeCare patients became wards of the federal government as soon as FEMA evacuation teams set up in the New Orleans area.

How's that for gratitude? Fran left them out of the federal report and then got blamed later. That's a pretty slick risk management move, which happens to be Fran's expertise. Don't tell me she cooked that up in conjunction with the Carlyle big dogs? So many questions and so little time. I hope Kenneth is more responsive than Fran. Time will tell. Wahoo Wah to our latest famous alumus! He sits alongside Wahoo's Katie Couric, Tom Scully, and Fred Fielding. All have bent the President's ear at one point or another.

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