We were uncertain that the evacuation of the whole city could provide such volume. To offer quality clinical care and remain in sound mind under such conditions, we hospitalists unanimously agreed to care for our patients 24/7 in weekly rotation. Our hospital census during this period was at 60% of usual and the admission was running at 40% of normal. We decreased the residents from three members per team to two in order to provide a five-day rotation of three teams. We utilized the staging center of Ochsner Baton Rouge to organize our employees and provide transportation to and from New Orleans. Employees were discouraged from driving in
their own vehicles due to gasoline shortage and safety concerns.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 3:
Hurricane Aftermath Day 5
Conditions in New Orleans improved rapidly with better security. Evacuees were steadily transported out of the Superdome and Convention Center. Hurricane Katrina disasters posed new challenges in providing care. We saw patients with
- Severe dehydration;
- Exhaustion caused by the lack of use or incorrect use of their medications for days resulting in exacerbation of chronic conditions such as COPD;
- Water-borne illnesses from prolonged immersion in toxic water;
- Reactive airway diseases from environmental allergens;
- Cellulitis from cuts and bruises in evacuees, as well as people attempting home repairs;
- Carbon monoxide poisoning from generators used incorrectly inside homes; and
- Withdrawals from illicit drug uses.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 4:
Hurricane Aftermath Day 6
During the Sunday ad-hoc church service at Ochsner, doctors, nurses, employees, patients, and families came together in spiritual healing. We sang praises of hope and optimism for our community. We were grateful for our status in this unbelievable disaster and offered prayers and hope for those who had lost so much. We had never been so proud of the efforts of every individual in our institution for maintaining this facility for patient care in such dire situations and promised to be optimistic about our future.
Fortunately, with the help of the Jefferson Parish emergency utility crews, power was restored to our institution. We became fully functional to take on the challenges of the community.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 5:
Hurricane Aftermath Day 7
The 17th Street Canal breach was controlled and the water pump back in operation. Residents of Jefferson Parish were allowed to return to take their personal items from their houses but were still under voluntary evacuation, while Orleans Parish was still closed. To plan the demand for medical care in the wake of gradual recovery, OCF began to maintain all of our employees through strategic deployments in various satellite clinics and hospitals according to the needs of the population in New Orleans and other areas.
We have learned so much from this disaster. The key to overcome such adverse conditions entails strong psychosocial support from colleagues and family. Strong leadership is crucial to maintain a sense of serenity and an optimistic outlook in times of uncertainty. We experienced a sense of camaraderie after seeing all medical personnel participating in activities beyond of the boundary of usual roles.