Medical Response Is Uncoordinated Scott Weinstein

New Orleans, Sept. 10, 2005 — Medical response and access in Louisiana is uncoordinated and sporadic outside the main evacuation routes. Lack of medications for people dependent on insulin or oral anti-hyperglycemics, cardiac and anti-hypertensives are a major medical concern.

Siege continues, quiet mutiny begins

Poor people still in New Orleans are not able to get to or buy medications — all pharmacies are closed. (Medications for Katrina victims are free.) Only government controlled health services are running—- and they are almost exclusively designated for the security forces and assigned civilian workers doing repairs, etc.. I know of one civilian-designated clinic outside the Convention Center, but that is in a closed military zone for people evacuating.

Still, the wonderful contradiction is that both security personnel and medical workers told not to treat and assist civilians (carrot and stick approach to get them to leave), ARE assisting and treating civilians to a limited extent. (kinda gives you a little faith in humanity). They are in effect mobile clinics.

From what I read in the paper today, the forced evacuation plan is fading, and hopefully so will the clampdown.

Do it Yourself relief

If people are able to send medications, and measuring instruments (i.e. glucometers & BP cuffs) plus ice packs to store the insulin, then competent people on the ground in Louisiana could reach out, examine and treat some people.

Locations, contact people and phone / email are essential to knowing where to go — especially outside New Orleans.

If people can get me reliable contact information for the areas with health needs, I can get supplies and medications, and even a team of professional health workers.

Transportation: My first choice would be the Ambulances. There are tons of them sitting around with furious EMTs waiting to be allowed to do something, or given information on who, what, where and when. (They know why). The independent crews not tied to a company command structure are the most able to act autonomously.

The boat search & rescues are being 'controlled' by the military, but they could be a source (although I think at this point, I don't think there are too many survivors remaining. Some trapped animals are still alive. Depending on the patrol, they could be rescued and taken to animal shelters.

Personnel: Obviously, people who are competent to dispense the therapy — be it medications, massage, etc..

Other than that, medical clothes or a straight "look" are an asset to getting by and along with the suspicious security. And let's be honest, the security is mostly guys who are suckers for women who can act shrewdly.

If you want to come down, please make sure you have the above contacts first. But I warn you, expect roadblocks, a run-around, and don't expect to be busy treating people — unless you are a massage therapist!

Health Facilities, Shelters, and Churches

As a follow-up to my first letter (Tuesday?) the need for health workers is even more confusing.

Some critical care nurses and maybe doctors are needed at the Earl K Long Hospital (public) in Baton Rouge, (as of this morning).

People tell me that the River-Center Shelter in Baton Rouge is run by the Red Cross & maybe looking for a variety of volunteers and health workers. I think there maybe several thousand people there today. It looked very busy from the brief glance I got of it yesterday.

Needs change rapidly, and the general goal of the health facilities and shelters is to move along the evacuees and shut down their rescue operations quickly. I don't know how the Red Cross actually incorporates people here — they never called me back from my communications with them.

Word of mouth is how I get most of my needs' information, and often the information is un-confirmed or out of date. You can also just venture from place to place and try your luck.

I think the churches here (and this is a very religious state) are very active and I assume effective because they are autonomous, with a coherent community of like minded people who want to do charity, and integrated into the FEMA list of good guys. It would be interesting to see if churches on the FEMA list of designated charities worked for Bush's election. For those of you with faith based connections, you can find out lots of information about what they are doing, or if they are housing health workers. They are involved in a great variety of activities — and not all related to assisting the poor.

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