Tuesday, February 28, 2006

After Katrina: Six months and still waiting.

Its six months after Katrina and New Orleans and Mississippi are still a mess. W. "committed" $82 billion to rebuild, but really didn't get around to actually spending it. Things are so bad that Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco is threatening to "block the August sale of offshore oil and gas leases" unless the administration gets serious about putting its money where its mouth is. "It's time to play hardball, as I believe that's the only game Washington understands."

Yes, things are pretty desperate and a good case in point, Mardi Gras notwithstanding, is the sorry state of medical care in New Orleans. Charity Hospital, the second oldest continually operating hospital in the country and the only provider of care to the poor, is now reduced to operating out of the Convention Center inside tents. They might wind up back outside in a parking lot, like they were before, because the city needs the Convention Center for its economic revival. The NewsHour reported last night that it could cost over $200 million to rebuild Charity but FEMA is offering only 21. So far, the hospital has no other offer of help to move indoors.

According to the AP, Charity's skeletal staff of doctors, "offer the most rudimentary care: They can x-ray bones but not set them. They can draw blood and diagnose an ailment but not treat it beyond prescribing pills. And with no ER and no capacity to operate, they can't do much more than stabilize trauma patients before sending them by ambulance elsewhere, often far away." (Shreveport is 340 mile away) Dr. Peter DeBlieux, the head of what's left of emergency services says, "If you have cancer my advice is move. If you need dialysis, go. Get out of here. If you have any major illness and are uninsured, we cannot possibly accommodate your needs. You will die sooner if you stay here."

The news has been replete of late with stories about the outstanding care that our wounded troops in Iraq are receiving in state of the art medical facilities in a war zone, it would be nice if the sick and uninsured of the Gulf Coast had the same level of care. If we can afford to spend billions rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure and constructing our permanent bases for the "long war," why can't W. spare some chump change for a proper hospital in New Orleans?

In his speech back in September W. said, "Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes. We will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives. And all who question the future of the Crescent City need to know: There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again." (Building a hospital might be a good start.)

Well, the folks down on the Gulf Coast---and down in South Florida I might add----are still waiting. My God, Fallujah was in batter shape 6 months after the Marines leveled it back in November 2004!


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