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April 14th, 2008
10:28 AM ET

Health care in New Orleans

By Danielle Dellorto
CNN

Nearly three years after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the city continues to push forward toward rebuilding.

One area that's still struggling is the city's health-care system.  Many hospitals have closed, leaving the remaining institutions to pick up the overflow of patients.

Now, the CEOs of five of the largest health-care institutions in New Orleans are joining forces -pleading to Congress for financial aid.  Pre-Katrina the hospitals profited $12 million a year; today they tell CNN they're in the red-projecting an annual loss of more than $135 million.

So what does this mean for the people of New Orleans?  Patients are subject to long ER wait times, hospital beds are nearly maxed out and a shortage of doctors and nurses is limiting patient access to specialists.

CNN has been in New Orleans investigating this story. We visited one inner-city hospital whose ER beds were nearly full by 8 a.m.  We talked to a 71-year-old man who had been sitting in the waiting room for more than 14 hours.  And according to hospital executives, his situation is more the norm than the exception.

New Orleans residents are concerned. A 2007 survey (See study) reveals that nearly 9 in 10 feel there are not enough hospitals or medical centers to take care of them.

Now we want to hear from you. Do you think access to health care in New Orleans is worse than in your hometown?

Programming note: Watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta's investigation of the state of health care in New Orleans on Anderson Cooper 360 on April 29.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. mitch wasden

    It is sad to think how many billions we spend on the war every month yet the effects of natrural disatster of biblical proportions on our own soil has faded from our attention. The federal government's response to Katrina was inadequate and continues to be so. The medicare wage index is woefully understated in New Orleans following Katrina which means hospitals spend more than Medicare pays them to treat patients. New Orleans is not asking for a handout. They just need there wage index to reflect reality (as it does in other markets). For a country that has split the atom and sent a man to the moon, I'm unclear as to why changing a wage index is so hard?

    April 15, 2008 at 12:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Dr Lekha Subaiya

    Healthcare in New Orleans is still in a pitiful condition.
    After two years of commuting to New York to work, the comparison on returning to work in New Orleans; drives me to make these comments.
    Hey, we were never on the cutting edge, but care was adequate with multiple choices. I have practised here for 25 years. The physician shortage and over-burdened hospitals that survived Katrina need immediate resuscitation to make it.
    Surely it must not take 10 years to replace the hospitals affiliated with LSU Medical School; the core of indigent care and teaching.
    For rebuilding a city; housing, schools and hospitals should have been the priority, all to be done in three years. Instead the city is suffocating in indecision and grandiose plans.

    April 15, 2008 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Darlene Floyd

    I live here in New Orleans, sadly this is really no different than it was before. I think, the only difference is we had more choices then. I have had family member who, had to undergo life saving heart surgery, before the "Big K', have to sit in a hospital holding ben for 12hrs with chest pains. He got so tired of waiting, for a bed, he just went home and prayed. What else is there for us to do? We could all go somewhere else. If you've never been here you can't understand the hold "The Big EZ" has on her people. One walk through City Park or a drive down St. Charles street is enough, for an visitor to get it. "Big K' may have hurt us a little, and put things at a slower growing pace. We "Cajuns" just love our city enough to hold her up for awhile, until she heals her wounds.

    April 15, 2008 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Robin

    If you are doing a story on health care in New Orleans, be sure to research the current state of local mental health care for your story. It is the biggest crisis of health care in the region (in a state that is already at the bottom of the heap for psychiatric/psychological care).

    April 16, 2008 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. L. Schlauderaff

    I agree with Robin. The mental health care in New Orleans is a joke. My grandmother suffers from bio polar disorder and the doctors at first could not agree on what was causing her manic episodes. Meanwhile her physical health was failing (kidneys) and she wasn't being treated while in the psychiatric wing of the hospital. My family could not get straight answers from the attending doctors on her care. It seemed that she just lay in bed most of the time and they released her several times because they needed her bed, not because she was better.

    April 20, 2008 at 11:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Aubrey

    I went to University Hopsital with excrutiating pain caused by dry socket from a wisdom tooth extraction performed by residient dentists in the same building. I informed the receptionist of my situation and it was over an hour and a half before a nurse took me in only to take my blood pressure and temperature and send me back to the waiting room. Others there told me they had been waiting over 17 hours without any treatment. I was forced to leave and go across town for relief and foot the bill since I didnt have insurance since I'm a college student and can't afford it. I felt that at the very least they could have provided some pain relief during my ridiculously long wait. I found it appalling. There was also another women constantly moaning and complainng of pain with one of her legs scarily swollen and no one paid any attention. It was down right discusting

    May 2, 2008 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. o-o

    Okay.................................................................
    this is so good thank you so muchaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh !

    November 1, 2011 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.