TULANE, La. — Though the public is always encouraged to stay off the streets during extreme weather events, many invariably don’t, and some end up needing to brave dangerous weather because of more pressing concerns, like severe injury or sickness. This necessity means another group of people doesn’t have the option to stay inside and keep dry, those who staff the hospitals people rely on in their time of need.
The entryways to Tulane Medical Center may be sandbagged because of Hurricane Isaac, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t accepting patients. Emergency room staff and a skeleton crew medical team have been braving the weather every day, treating almost as many patients as they would under normal conditions.
The city has offered to transport people with special medical needs to state shelters, but many proud citizens don’t want to leave their homes, meaning the hospital is seeing patients who have experienced failures in their home medical equipment due to power outages or other issues.
Though hospital staff, as always, is more than willing to bite the bullet and brave the storm, Tulane emergency room medical director, Dr. Prateek Adhikari, told the Times-Picayune there were multiple reasons for citizens with chronic medical issues to follow authorities’ advice and accept the governments offer to relocate them as storms approach. In addition to the risks involved in staying home when power and water services will likely be disrupted, and the dangers of being forced to brave the storm if help becomes necessary, Adhukari explained, “People need to be aware that hospitals are not running on all eight cylinders.”
He added that the medical center’s intensive care unit was already filled. The problem was compounded by a case of good old fashion bad luck, as the hospital would have preferred to release more patients as the storm approached, but happened to have a higher than normal number of patients who were severely ill and simply couldn’t be released in good conscience.
Despite these obstacles, the hospital’s diligent preparation for the storm has made the difference. The pharmacy stocked up in the days before the storm, in anticipation of the increased difficulty, if not outright impossibility, of delivering additional supplies during a severe storm.
The hospital also received assistance from its majority owner, Healthcare Corporation of America, which has provided its medical centers in the region with special weather updates, extra supplies, and emergency evacuation contracts with various types of aircraft.
Though Hurricane Katrina remains a haunting memory in the minds of a nation, its clear that many lessons have been learned from the region-shattering event in terms of preparedness for severe storm events. The river may rise, but the people will too.