from the county water supply in the hospital. Thus the hospital continued to have water for at least the first three floors. The cool well water provided much-needed refreshing showers and maintained adequate sanitary conditions.
One of our hospitalists evacuated from OCF (along with several of our team’s family members) to Houston. On their way, they passed downed power-lines, a daiquiri shop in flames, and cars carrying boats on their roofs into New Orleans to help rescue stranded people.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 31:
Hurricane Aftermath Day 2
Conditions in downtown New Orleans became increasing dire with rising floodwater, hunger, thirst, and reports of looting and unrest. Rumors started to spread about the status and safety of OCF. One stated that OCF had looted a nearby Wal-Mart for food and supplies even though, in fact, senior executives of Wal-Mart personally inventoried the items and generously donated them to our institution.
There were also rumors about looters approaching from downtown. Family members outside the city were urging our employees to leave because of the danger of continued flooding and civil unrest. OCF administrators (under the leadership of the CEO Patrick Quinlan, MD, President and COO Warner Thomas, MD, and Medical Director Richard Guthrie, MD) actively addressed these issues to stop the rumors with scheduled and mandatory open forums. During the next few days, OCF was in a lock-down mode with the National Guard and our own security department providing security.
Not knowing the capability of our facility in this time of extreme uncertainly, we proceeded to discharge and move patients to other centers, such as Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston and Summit Hospital in Baton Rouge via both helicopter and ambulance.
Simultaneously we focused on patients who were stable and ready for discharge to increase our organization capacity to create a plan for providing resource for both the east and west banks of the Mississippi River.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 1:
Hurricane Aftermath Day 3
With the city of New Orleans under marshal law, OCF continued in lock-down mode. During the aftermath, a high priority was to contact all the evacuated employees. An employee outreach program was implemented in which each department accounted for the whereabouts of all personnel. As for our hospitalist program, we started to meet twice daily immediately after the hurricane to address concerns of emergency department volumes, maintain open communications, provide mutual psychological support, and foster a spirit of teamwork. During these meetings we believed that our department had cemented a bond that could not be created in normal circumstances. Our efforts through the storm and the unimaginable adversity were nothing short of extraordinary.
Our medical colleagues in Charity Hospital in downtown New Orleans faced unprecedented challenges caring for patients with minimal supplies. We heard reports of doctors giving each other IV hydration and medical personnel bagging ventilator patients in shifts. With no communication except the Internet, they resorted to e-mailing CNN for help.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 2:
Hurricane Aftermath Day 4
President Bush arrived to visit New Orleans and other devastated areas in the Gulf region. With the National Guard moving in to provide security and relief efforts, Mayor Nagin declared the day a turning point for the city. After the hurricane, it was uncertain how many patients would require medical care in the community. From the Hurricane Ivan experience in Pensacola, Fla., we were advised that 10 days after the disaster, one could anticipate a doubling of the highest emergency department volume for several weeks.