Gulf Coast patients hurt by long wait times

Despite the fact that some Hurricane Katrina-affected regions lost half of their population after the disaster, all types of healthcare providers are in short supply for those who remain. This has led to long wait times, particularly for emergency care. A survey conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) reports that many Gulf Coast physicians think that their patients have been harmed by the long wait to receive treatment. Among their primary concerns: staffing shortages, too few beds and a dearth of medical specialists. These shortages are discouraging to providers who stayed in the area after the hurricane hit. "You survive and work through the hurricanes and the damage and you expect it to get better at some point. We're still waiting," said Dr. Jim Aiken, director of Emergency Preparedness at Charity Hospital in New Orleans.

The ACEP recommended a number of steps to correct the problems, including increasing emergency care capacity, re-establishing teaching facilities to attract doctors, improving mental healthcare and investing in EMRs, among other things. Just last week, HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt recognized the opportunity to completely reconstruct the New Orleans' health system. By October 20th, a number of health experts will submit a plan for an improved New Orleans healthcare system.

For the ACEP's full analysis of healthcare in the Gulf Coast:
- see this study
- and read this article from the Boston Globe

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The far-reaching effects of Hurricane Katrina. Report
Charitable giving to healthcare drops. Report
Lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina. Report

PLUS: One nurse is providing free healthcare for Katrina survivors. Article