On Life Support New Orleans’s against-the-odds struggle to care for the infirm By Nancy Shute 4/24/06 NEW ORLEANS–Peter DeBlieux always pictured himself working in a tent one day. It just "wasn’t in this country." A veteran emergency-room physician, DeBlieux is inside a tent pitched in an abandoned Lord & Taylor store just a few blocks from where he once ran one of the busiest ERs in the United States.That would be New Orleans’s Charity Hospital, but, thanks to Hurricane Katrina, DeBlieux can’t go back there. The flood that followed Katrina knocked out Charity’s electricity and water. Patients and staff spent five grueling days trapped in the hospital in 100-degree heat, rationing drinking water, and hand-squeezing "ambu" bags to keep ventilator patients alive.
That was the easy part, some now say. Seven months later, New Orleans’s healthcare system is floundering, and the fact that the city’s once biggest hospital exists in a 30-bed tent is just one of the most obvious symptoms. When Charity started offering emergency care in a military tent on the convention center parking lot last September, DeBlieux thought he’d be practicing medicine this way for a month, tops. "Seven months out? It’s not OK," he says. "This is the United States of America. This is not a Third World country."
Louisiana’s healthcare isn’t robounding as well as we’d hope. but there are signs of progress here, despite plans, not due to them.