The emergency rooms of this bedraggled region are facing their own emergency. As thousands of residents have begun returning in the weeks since New Year's, there are far more sick people than there are doctors, nurses, beds and equipment to take care of them.
The slow repopulation of the city picked up speed after the holidays as more schools reopened and, in the words of one emergency room doctor, the sicker people began to return. But only seven of what had been 15 adult acute-care facilities in the city and three surrounding parishes are open, and only one-third of the acute-care beds.
Five NOLA hospitals are closed as the buildings are severely damaged. "Some hospitals have opened neighborhood clinics or parking-lot tents for walk-in care, but some may never reopen, or may take up to a year to find the money to rebuild." Touro Infirmary is the only full service hospital at present in New Orleans proper so many people are sent to suburban hospitals. There were 5,063 available beds pre Katrina for the NOLA area. Now there are about 1,750 beds. The military had set up hospital facilities after Katrina but they are now gone.
At present ambulances can be tied up for hours delivering a patient. Ambulance calls have usually tripled during Mardi Gras from 120 a day to 360. Doctors are so worried about the upcoming Mardi Gras that they have formed a planning committee.
The city's rebuilding commission said in a report this week that if 65 percent of the region's prestorm population returns by July 1 - as many experts have predicted - the city will need to triple the number of hospital beds available, which would require hiring 2,550 medical staff members in less than six months and an "extraordinary expense" in housing them and paying them enough to returnAfter Care
Long term care such as rehab, hospice, nursing home and psychiatric facilities are non existent at present so there is really no place to discharge patients. What ER facilities there are report being overwhelmed with psychiatric patients.