Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Evacuation of Hospitals

One of my supervisors got a call about the evacuation of hospitals in the aftermath of Katrina. There is so much information out there, and so many people already talking and blogging about this horrible disaster that I'm just going to stick with blogging about it from a nursing standpoint. I wish I could be there and do something to help, but I'm not ready yet. I can only commend the nurses and docs who have either dropped everything and flown out to help, or the ones who are already there and doing everything they can to survive and do what they can for their patients. They have my deepest respect.

I can only imagine how difficult it would be to completely evacuate a hospital with no power and rising floodwaters. I know how I've heard nurses grumble when there isn't an open bed on the floor and they need to move a patient out of the CCU. Multiply that by 800, take away food and power, and make the room you're trying to move them to a thousand miles away, and I don't even want to imagine. But you know what? I know they'll do it. Nurses are amazing people.

NEW YORK (Reuters) Aug 31 - Tenet Healthcare Corp. on Tuesday said its five hospitals in the New Orleans area and its hospital in the Mississippi Gulf Coast area suffered serious damage from Hurricane Katrina, and three of them have had to evacuate all patients and staff.

The Dallas-based company said it cannot yet estimate the extent of water and wind damage, but anticipates its costs will be "significant" even after taking into account its existing insurance coverage for property damage and business interruption.

"All are currently without municipal power and telephone service, and are using back-up generators," Tenet said, adding that no hurricane-related injuries to patients have been reported.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - As floodwaters rose around Charity Hospital, the rescuers needed their own rescuing.

Charity’s backup generator was running out of diesel fuel. Nurses hand-pumped ventilators for patients who couldn’t breathe. Doctors canoed supplies in from three nearby hospitals.

“It’s like being in a Third World country. We’re trying to work without power. Everyone knows we’re all in this together. We’re just trying to stay alive,� said Mitch Handrich, a registered nurse manager at the state’s biggest public hospital.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said 2,500 patients would be evacuated from hospitals in Orleans Parish, but it wasn’t immediately clear where they would be moved.

Police were working to get more generators to Charity and its 300 patients. The most critically ill would be evacuated first, with the rest to go later this week.

Patients delivered by boat
Outside Charity, water was 3 to 4 feet deep in the street. Inside, halls were dark and slippery. Workers ferried supplies up and down darkened stairs. Everyone needed flashlights.

And yet the injured kept coming. At one point, a boat pulled up carrying a man doubled over in pain.

“Where are we going to put him? We’re the rescuee now. People coming in here, it’s like running into a burning building looking for shelter,� nursing supervisor Ray Campo said.

Helicopters landed at the hospital’s parking garage — sometimes first picking up specialists from other cities — to get about 25 sick babies and take them to hospitals in Lafayette, New Iberia and Alexandria, said Richard Zeuschlag, president of Acadian Ambulance Service Inc.

Boats had to take other patients eight miles to a highway intersection, where 80 ambulances waited to ferry them for triage at the LSU Assembly Center in Baton Rouge.

Hospital evacuations
Other hospitals were also scrambling to get patients out.

Tenet Healthcare Corp. said it was evacuating its 317-bed Memorial Medical Center and 187-bed Lindy Boggs Medical Center in New Orleans. The company’s 203-bed Kenner Regional Medical Center in Kenner, 207-bed Meadowcrest Hospital in Gretna, and 174-bed NorthShore Regional Medical Center in Slidell remained open with back-up power but also suffered water and wind damage.

Most hospitals had supplies and generator power for three to five days, but the effects of Hurricane Katrina would last much longer. “They’re short of supplies and diesel, and without people to get to them,� Zeuschlag said.

Medical disaster teams, able to triage and treat as many as 250 patients in three days were on their way from seven states to areas damaged by the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Administration said. Two veterinary teams were also coming to handle pets and rescue dogs.

Perched a lofty 8 feet above sea level in Jefferson Parish, Ochsner Clinic was one of the few in the area still up and running. It tried to focus on taking in only those patients with life-threatening illnesses.

Even at the clinic, broken glass littered some areas, and patients and staff alike had fallen on floors slick with hurricane waters. With electricity and air conditioning out, generators were providing the only power.

But there was ample water, food, blood and medical supplies to do everything needed, and enough power to keep medical machinery humming, hospital officials said, crediting the plans and preparations made before the storm hit.

“I’m proud to tell you that, things are going — under the circumstances — really well,� said nurse Jackie Lupo, director of labor and delivery.

Several women gave birth during the ordeal, each baby announced with a tune over the loudspeaker.

“Nobody named one Katrina yet,� said clinic spokeswoman Katherine Voss.
Posted by HypnoKitten at 4:49 PM

Anonymous john cowart, at 7:27 PM  

Heroic deeds. Good hearts. I salute all of you nurses who live in a Maelstrom even when there's not a hurricane to deal with. Thank you.

Blogger shrimplate, at 11:43 PM  

The absolutely most difficult thing about being a nurse is knowing that you must be in many places at once.

A nurse assigned to six patients has six jobs.

Every breath I take is a prayer.

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