Hurricane Katrina didn't topple the head of New Orleans' emergency medical services system, but an apparent conflict of interest did.
Dr. Jullette Saussy resigned from her post last week, shortly after the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported she had been on the payroll of a Texas biomedical company whose infusion device is a staple in the city's ambulances.
In addition to her position as director of New Orleans' EMS department, she is also medical director for the New Orleans Fire Department and chief medical officer for the city's Office of Emergency Preparedness.
Saussy had received a $90,000 annual salary from Vidacare, based outside of San Antonio, since June 2007. The salary was for instructing emergency room physicians and paramedics on the use of the company's device for infusing fluids and medications directly into bones. Saussy had purchased a home in Texas not long after she accepted the position, and correspondence between her and the company suggested she has moved to work for Vidacare full-time, notes the Times-Picayune.
All the while, Saussy continued to draw her $180,000 city salary, making her New Orleans' highest-paid employee. Saussy claimed that former Mayor Ray Nagin had approved the arrangement with Vidacare. Saussy resigned from Vidacare after 15 months.
Saussy claimed she was able to fulfill her city duties and her second job through e-mails, phone conferences and as many as two commuter flights from Texas daily. She said she bought the house in Texas because she was receiving treatments for uterine cancer at a nearby hospital.