New Orleans health system still on life support

Still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans health system still has such bad gaps in it that patients are dying needlessly, New Orleans medical executives told Congress this week. Among other problems, heart disease and cancer patients are getting inadequate care, psych patients aren't getting their meds, and deaths have increased by as much as 40 percent over pre-Katrina levels, executives and city officials said. To date, the city's primary hospital--a 700 bed facility which served as the area's leading trauma center--still hasn't reopened, and overall, the region only has half the beds it did before the hurricane. The region also faces a serious shortage of doctors and nurses. Meanwhile, people with everyday illnesses must endure many hours of waiting to get treated at volunteer-staffed clinics. The New Orleans medical leaders would like to see more help from the federal government, but face pressure to buy into a new system under which funds would insure the medically indigent rather than paying for care at designated charity hospitals.

To catch up on the situation:
- read this Los Angeles Times item