Friday, September 02, 2005

In the aftermath of this horrendous disaster that is Hurricane Katrina,
I was glad to see the attached (slightly redacted by me to remove
directly identifying information) letter sent out to all employees of
the organization where I work.

DATE: September 1, 2005
TO: Physicians and Staff

SUBJECT: [Health System] Initiatives to Support Hurricane
Katrina Relief Efforts

We have learned from federal disaster-relief officials that the most
needed contribution we can make at this time to support the victims of
Hurricane Katrina is financial - so that the dollars contributed can be
used by relief experts to make purchases vital to their provision of
necessary food, shelter, and medical services.

To that end, [Health System] has made a donation to the American Red
Cross in support of the relief effort ... and we encourage all
physicians and staff to make their own financial contributions to their
preferred charitable organization. To join the Health System's
initiative to get much-needed funds as rapidly as possible to
appropriate agencies, please visit the Federal Emergency Management
website at <> or call 1-800-HELPNOW

To further support the federal response efforts, we have created a
Health Care Professionals Relief Program to register [Health System]
volunteers for staffing assignments in one of the dozens of Field
Medical Shelters that are now being established by federal officials in
the areas hardest hit by the hurricane. These shelters will be used
to evaluate and treat patients emergently; and they will also serve as
medical staging sites for the transfer of critically ill patients to
hospitals throughout the nation that have not been directly affected by
the hurricane and its aftermath of floods.

If you are a health care professional who would be able to devote a
minimum of two consecutive weeks to such a staffing effort, please
register your interest by clicking on [health system intranet link] .
To ensure that operational efficiencies are maintained at all Health
System facilities, volunteer activities by [Health System] personnel
will be coordinated by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer and will
be scheduled and approved by relevant supervisors, managers,
administrators, and Chairs. Volunteers will need to use either
Vacation or Unpaid Hours to support their efforts.

While there are still many unanswered questions, interested individuals
should keep in mind that you would be required to serve for a minimum
of two weeks, that you will need to receive all necessary
vaccinations, and that details surrounding travel and lodging
arrangements remain undetermined. In addition, the "field" conditions
under which you would be serving will be very different from what you
experience here at home.

We will communicate with you as we receive additional information about
how our efforts may efficiently support the implementation of the
National Disaster Plan. Meanwhile, we will begin to develop our
volunteer corps of health-care professionals ... and continue to
encourage you to make a financial contribution.

Thank you for your continued interest in helping to support the victims
of Hurricane Katrina. Together, we can make a significant
contribution to our neighbors in need.

I'm so glad that my employer is gearing up to do something concrete for the disaster-stricken area. I'm sure that many more companies will be planning to support relief efforts in some way. But not every company can send actual medical personnel to the areas devastated by Katrina. Medical supply companies of every stripe had better pitch in, too, and donate however many sterile items are needed due to this catastrophe. Ditto for pharmaceutical companies.

The news has been reporting mostly about the conditions in New Orleans, although other cities and states have been devastated, as well. I can understand why -- it's likely that more people have visited New Orleans than just about anywhere else that was struck by Katrina.

I was there in July 1987 for a convention. I loved every minute of it, both the workshops and speakers at the convention itself, and the tours we went on in our free time. We did a tour of a plantation, a ride on the Natchez, Preservation Hall, midnight jazz Mass, breakfast at Brennan's, the Moonwalk, Cafe du Monde, the French Quarter, and other things that I'll probably be able to recall if I think back on those five days... I can't say enough good things about that trip, the people, the city, the food, everything.

Several of the workshops and all of the keynote addresses took place in the SuperDome. To this day, I can't see a picture of that building without thinking of the convention and the wonderful time we all had.

To see the SuperDome with extensive hurricane damage, to read the horror stories of the heat, filth, and mayhem that the evacuees were subjected to in there, to see the wreckage that so much of the rest of the city has become... it horrifies me. I dread the day that the death toll finally begins to be tallied; I fear it's going to be hideous beyond anyone's worst nightmare by the time the counting is done. :o(

I've been looking all over the internet to see what, if any, landmarks are still recognizable from our trip there. I'm reasonably sure, after looking at some online maps, that the hotel where we stayed is in the 80% of the city that's flooded. Sigh.

Just about all we can do now is donate to relief agencies and pray wholeheartedly that as many people come out of this disaster safely as humanly possible. That goes for the entire Gulf region, not just New Orleans.

I feel like I did when the tsunami struck SE Asia last December... the news is heartbreaking to watch, to the point where I almost can't bear to look. But I feel like I HAVE to know what's going on, because so many lives are at stake.

Aid has FINALLY started to reach the region. (Jolly freakin' well about time, considering the hurricane hit four days ago and it was well-known several days in advance that Katrina would make landfall in the Gulf region.) I hope that we start hearing good news of what's going RIGHT for evacuees. After the past few days of disaster and mayhem, that'll be a welcome turnaround.

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