New York Times Blogs

Northlander
Michigan
August 27th, 2009
11:00 am 
In any disaster plan, triage is a standard means of coping with mass casualties. If responders are held personally responsible for that professional choice of who can be treated effectively, who would then respond? These physicians might have abandoned their posts but chose to stay with their patients, and made hard choices under unimagineable conditions. Without a triage plan staffed by professionals, thousands might die for want of care. We should be slow to judge here, as Louisianans have done.

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mkb
Charleston, SC
August 27th, 2009
11:00 am 
The health care professionals who stayed behind to care for patients during and after Katrina are heroes, not villans. There is only so much you can do to save a life dependent upon mechanical ventilation when the power fails and you run out of oyxgen. It only takes 4 minutes to begin having brain damage. It takes two hands to ambu one patient. I hardly think there was and endless supply of caregivers. These people did the best they could in a horrible situation, one, where many might just walk away. 
 
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Gaycart
New Jersey
August 27th, 2009
4:28 pm 
I was a first responder after Katrina hit. I had previously worked at the Tsunami in Southeast Asia and at the World Trade Center Bombings. 
Unless you are there and making assessments of the patients requiring care, you should not judge. 

In my case - I had a gun held to me while my meager supply of water and medical supplies were taken from me while trying to assist those in need. 
Difficult choices needed to be made, and as a medical professional I do know that no one took any life for granted. In situations such as this you can only save those you can, and you cannot save everyone. I applaud those people who did not abandon their patients and provided some kind of care when they could have left them. 

After all, I did not see an influx of self-righteous caregivers showing up to assist. Even the President of the United States chose to do a fly-over instead of assisting. 
Since Katrina, I have worked in war zones and third-world countries where there was better organized assistance than what we received in New Orleans. So please do not pretend to know or even begin to comprehend the status on the ground where we are making every effort to save whoever we could. 

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L.R.
New Orleans
August 27th, 2009
12:45 pm 
My family member was in Tenet-owned Mercy Hospital in New Orleans recovering from gall bladder surgery when the federally-built levees failed, swamping New Orleans. After being evaluated by doctors there as an "A" (ambulatory and in the best possible shape - a letter that was marked on his forehead), he and the other patients were not evacuated until Thursday, after a hellish scenario involving a number of patient deaths, being ferried out of the hospital by rescue workers who then left the patients on a thin strip of dry land in the sun for hours, and finally being taken to the airport where he collapsed and was transported to Texas. Two weeks  later, he was dead, with the doctors in Texas stymied by a lack of medical records, his dehydrated and weakened condition and a seeming inertia. 

I don't know how I feel when I read that obviously very ill patients died in the wake of this disaster when I know a fairly healthy one who did as well. 
I do know this, however. Tenet, which had the responsibility and the resources to respond to this crisis, did not. The company left its patients and its staff in dire jeopardy and worsened an already horrific crisis situation. 
As for the government, obviously the City of New Orleans was not prepared and did not have the resources to deal with this situation – something the federal goverment already knew and had documented in its earlier "Hurricane Pam" scenario. 
Is there some blame to be laid at the city's door? Of course. But to think that any city could respond adequately to this type of disaster shows a complete lack of understanding of its magnitude. 

The state too obviously deserves some blame. But one also has to remember that a good part of the Louisiana National Guard - and its helicopters - were in Iraq. 
No, the force with the personnel and equipment to deal with this situation was the federal government. And it failed utterly. As I understand it, water was delivered to the tsunami victims from the United States aster than help was sent to New Orleans. 

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