Examining State Of New Orleans Health Care System Two Years After Hurricane Katrina

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Three broadcast programs recently reported on the health care system in New Orleans. Summaries of the programs appear below.

  • CBS' "Evening News":The program on Thursday reported on the shortage of health careproviders in New Orleans. Four hospitals that closed after HurricaneKatrina have not reopened, "[t]housands of doctors have left and aquarter of the adult population has no insurance," according to"Evening News." Kevin Jordan -- chief medical officer at Touro Infirmary,one of the few operational hospitals in the city -- said the departureof many primary care physicians from New Orleans has exacerbatedovercrowding at hospital emergency departments and has led to waittimes of up to two months for doctor appointments. "Evening News"reports that the federal government three months ago agreed to allocate$100 million to fund primary care clinics in New Orleans. However, NewOrleans Mayor Ray Nagin said the city to date has "seen very little ofthat money" (Couric, "Evening News," CBS, 8/30). Video of the segmentand expanded CBS News coverage are available online.
  • CNN's "American Morning": The program on Wednesday reported on mental health care in New Orleans. Cecile Tebo of the New Orleans Health Departmentsaid there has been a "huge surge" in individuals with chronic mentalillness returning to the city in the past six to nine months. At thesame times, more Katrina survivors are "developing new problems," andthere are fewer hospital beds available for people with mental illness,"American Morning" reports. According to preliminary results from anongoing Harvard Medical Schoolstudy, mental illness rates in New Orleans are twice pre-Katrinalevels, with sharp increases in the number of people consideringsuicide or experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (Gupta,"American Morning," CNN, 8/29). Video of the segment and expanded CNNcoverage are available online. A transcript of the segment also is available online.
  • NPR's "All Things Considered":The program on Wednesday reported on the mental health care system inNew Orleans. The number of adult psychiatric beds has dropped from 240prior to Katrina to 30 currently in Orleans Parish, which has apopulation of about 300,000. According to NPR, the "crisis ... is sointense that even mentally ill patients who were a threat to themselvesor others are often turned away" from hospitals. Part of the reason forthe shortage of beds is that Charity Hospital -- a state-run facilitythat accounted for nearly half of the city's psychiatric beds -- closedafter Katrina and has not reopened. Officials at the city's privatehospitals say they cannot afford to provide more psychiatric bedsbecause hospitals receive no state or federal reimbursements for thecare, NPR reports. Jordan -- CMO of Touro, a private hospital -- saidthe facility lost about $10.8 million in 2006 and projects to lose $15million to $18 million in 2007 and up to $25 million in future years."We can't commit to certain services that may not be well-funded or notfunded at all," Jordan said (Spiegel, "All Things Considered," NPR,8/29). Audio of the segment is available online.

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