As Public Health Crisis Continues,

Bush Fails to Act on Cuban Offer of 1,100 Doctors

by Karen O'Keefe Sunday, Sep. 04, 2005 at 1:47 AM

Hurricane victims from New Orleans desperately need medical attention, and there are not enough doctors available to meet all of their needs. However, the federal government has not yet accepted Cuba’s offer to send 1,100 doctors with more than 20 tons of medicine.

The front page of the Saturday New York Times features a grim photo of elderly patients -- some in critical condition -- lying on conveyer belts and stretchers at the New Orleans airport. There is not a nurse, doctor, or hospital bed in sight. A Times article explains that more than 2,000 patients were evacuated there from hospitals, and many died while awaiting evacuation to another hospital. As a Saturday headline on WLBT-TV, Jackson read: “Many dying at airport for lack of medical care.” As of Friday afternoon, a few hundred patients remained.

Shelters housing evacuees were also unable to fully meet their medical needs. An Associated Press article entitled “Astrodome Triage Center Treating Hundreds” discusses more than 11,000 refugees at the Astrodome with only 50 doctors to attend to their needs. A doctor who ordinarily treats only 30 patients in an eight hour day saw 50 patients in four hours.

The need of those still trapped in New Orleans itself is even more dire, where minor cuts can quickly become dangerous infections due to the toxic waters, and where for five days people have been without adequate food, water, medications, sanitation, and other necessities. By Saturday night, a typical news headline read, “New Orleans Left for the Dead and Dying.”

One of the many examples of evacuees’ suffering from medical neglect was the San Antonio Express’ account of Lamar Fefie’s hand:

Tears streaming down his face, Lamar Fefie thrust out his swollen, rotting hand and bandaged wrist. He had ripped open his wrist on a broken window while escaping from the hurricane, he said. "My hand's dead," he cried. "I can't even move my fingers. I ask police to take me to the hospital, but all they do is pull guns on me."

News accounts continued to point to ever-increasing numbers of residents seeking medical treatment, and the ability of the already overworked healthcare personnel to deal with the flow of patients is at a breaking point. FOX News Medical correspondent Dr. Steven Glorsky, working alongside other medical personnel to treat evacuees in Baton Rouge, said “Many people might think there are enough people here, and there are not. We just need help.” He added, “We have a crisis in there.”

Adding to the problem is decreasing availability of medical supplies in New Orleans. Another problem is that many of the evacuees seeking help simply do not know what medications they are on, but they still need them as soon as possible. Many hospitals and evacuees lost their medical records due to the storm, and city public health records are likewise lacking at this time, exasperating efforts to properly medicate certain patients.

With most of the city covered by standing water filled with sewage, fuels, toxic chemicals, and unknown numbers of corpses, officials and experts warn that residents risk a host of health problems. For example, there is also a concern these conditions create a favorable atmosphere for mosquitoes to multiply and spread West Nile Virus and malaria. Dr. Steven Garner told FOX News, "These are highly contagious diseases, and as people begin to experience the diarrhea and vomiting, it'll spread because we have people in very close quarters now in the Astrodome or wherever they are."

Infectious disease expert Dr. Sanford Kuvin explained to Palm Beach Daily News that the lack of adequate medical care could result in dangerous outbreaks of otherwise preventable and treatable diseases such as cholera and hepatitis.

Officials and experts reiterated that New Orleans is facing a public health crisis, and urgently needs medical professionals and medicines. Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of public health emergency, allowing medical practitioners to register with the Department of Health and Hospitals and begin working in Louisiana without delay. And Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Levitt told FOX News on Saturday that relief efforts need more medical professionals and that he is calling on individual practitioners to volunteer.

With patients across New Orleans receiving limited care after enduring days in extreme heat and without adequate water, food, medications, and electricity, President Fidel Castro of Cuba offered on Friday to send an initial 100 doctors to help deal with the medical crisis, and to send 1,000 more doctors by Sunday. But, the U.S. federal government has not accepted the offer, as the death toll continues to mount.







Organizzazione Comunista Internazionalista