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Hospitals in Dire Condition, Lacking Power, Supplies

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Hospitals in Dire Condition, Lacking Power, Supplies

Katrina & Beyond

Hospitals in Dire Condition, Lacking Power, Supplies

Hospitals in Dire Condition, Lacking Power, Supplies

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/4828807/4828808" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Doctors and patients at several hospitals in New Orleans are struggling. There's no food or water, no electricity, and few medical supplies. They have waited in vain to be evacuated.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Finding out what's happening in New Orleans' hospitals is difficult. Landline phones are out; cell phones aren't working. NPR's Joanne Silberner reports that one thing is clear: The hospitals are struggling.

JOANNE SILBERNER reporting:

Child psychiatrist Eric Griggs(ph) of Louisiana State University has been receiving text messages from an med school classmate, Bryant King(ph). King is a hospital specialist at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans.

Dr. ERIC GRIGGS (Child Psychiatrist): I got a text last night at about 9:30 saying, `Griggs, I'm stuck. Call the state. Call the news. Call anybody you can. It's bad.' He said, `I'm going to hold on.' People are in eight feet of water outside. People are trying to get to the hospital and break in and steal drugs. He's just scared.

SILBERNER: King also text-messaged that there were about 800 patients in the hospital, and nine had died; there was little electricity, food or water. King said some of the staff was starting to panic, even talking about helping some of the long-term acute-care patients, those close to death, die.

Dr. GRIGGS: He said he's still taking care of patients, doing the best that he can, keep as many alive as he can and to try to keep people's spirits up.

SILBERNER: King told Griggs he was worried that no one knew about the problems in the hospital. Tenet Healthcare said today that it is being evacuated with the help of the National Guard, but Griggs is concerned about his friend.

Dr. GRIGGS: My last text message was at about 9--no, about 8:30 this morning; said his battery was running low.

SILBERNER: Memorial Medical Center is one of five Tenet Healthcare hospitals in the New Orleans area. Only two have working generators and are capable of functioning. Last night someone with a gun tried to hijack a supply truck headed to one of those, Medicrest Hospitals in Gretna. Though the attempt failed, the company decided to evacuate Medicrest as well. A doctor at Charity Hospital in New Orleans told CNN today that things have gotten slightly better there. The hospital successfully evacuated all its most critically ill patients.

Meanwhile, hospitals in areas unaffected by Katrina are waiting for patients. Knox Andress is working on emergency preparedness in Shreveport in the far northwestern corner of Louisiana.

Mr. KNOX ANDRESS: Well, right now it looks great where we are. I mean, but that's not the problem. The problem is we have hospitals and assets and resources here that are ready to receive patients and victims and displaced people from New Orleans and southern Louisiana, and we're just waiting for them to get to us.

SILBERNER: They've only taken in 23 patients so far. He's been able to get through to New Orleans hospitals on a police radio band, but he doesn't have a clear idea of what's happening. This morning he was waiting for airlifted patients.

Mr. ANDRESS: One of our helicopter pilots and flight paramedics has just come in, and he's been down in New Orleans. And he's not there now because they've been shooting at the helicopters down there, and so air transport, air evacs, were suspended.

SILBERNER: Andress has 400 beds ready and waiting. Joanne Silberner, NPR News.

SIEGEL: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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