St Charles Parish

St. Charles Parish had suffered significant damage from the storm, but was in an excellent position to mount a rapid recovery. The early decisions to remove debris from roads and establish potable water and a working sewerage system proved critical. These allowed residents to return earlier, minimizing ongoing damage to property (roof leaks were repaired or covered, etc), and further hastening the removal of debris (everyone cleared their own lawns). Some businesses were able to reopen on generator power, with their regular employees available for work and their regular customers lining up at the doors. Shortly thereafter, convoys of power trucks arrived to repair the power lines. As Jefferson Parish and Orleans Parish were still inaccessible, they repaired the damaged power lines in St. Charles Parish instead. My own home in St. Charles Parish had electrical power restored exactly one week after the storm (by comparision, I had no power for 3 weeks after the much weaker Hurricane Gustav past over and caused considerably less damage). Hospitals were open and some medical practices re-opened, although most pharmacies remained closed, apparently due to issues with supply chains.

However, St. Charles Parish faced a challenge a new, particularly to its healthcare system, that would have pressed it under the best of circumstances. Those residents who were not allowed into Jefferson Parish or Orleans Parish were stranded in St. Charles Parish. An infrastructure designed to serve a population of ~60,000 was strained by literally hundreds of thousands of people waiting to be allowed back into their homes. The strain on the healthcare system was particularly severe, as these patients developed minor ailments or ran out of their chronic medications. In response, the local hospital, St. Charles Parish Hospital, set up an outpatient triage center, where around 1000 patients each day could quickly be seen and provided prescriptions for their medications. Physician volunteers from around the country, or in my case from down the street, came to help provide care at this center. Of course, the lack of pharmacies also became an issue, as we could provide prescription refills, but there was no place for the patients to fill them. The savior for this problem came in the unlikely form of caravans of dark sedans driven by what we refer to as "drug reps". These sales representatives from the pharmaceutical companies would normally provide medicaion samples to physicians; after Katrina, they had evidently tapped into regional and national stores of these samples to provide free medications to hospitals in the hurriane zone, quite literally one trunkload at a time. To my knowledge, the importance of this effort to the healthcare response teams has not been acknowledged, and I would like to do so now.

In addition to patients out of medications for chronic illnesses, the major illnesses treated at this triage center included minor illnesses and wound infections from cuts while wading through floodwaters, still present in parts of Jefferson Parish and much of Orleans Parish. It must also be mentioned the disappointingly large number of patients on chronic narcotics for back pain, who had been cared for in "pain clinics" in Jefferson Parish. Healthcare in the United States is usually not free, but no patients were charged for the services at this temporary outpatient center. To do so would have been totally impractical. Happily, this is one good deed which was rewarded - the hospital did keep records of the patients treated (including copies of photo ID's where possible), as was ultimately compensated by the federal government. I had joked about coming back someday to see the new hospital wing, and in fact did just that as part of my grand jury service 2 years later.

0 0

Post a comment