September 01, 2005


"This is a national disgrace. FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control. We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans." -- Terry Ebbert, Head of New Orleans' Emergency Operations

When the heads of two hospitals so desperately crippled that they can't sustain life have to call the ASSOCIATED PRESS to beg for help, disgrace has reached a new level.

(AP) — Doctors at two desperately crippled hospitals in New Orleans called The Associated Press Thursday morning pleading for rescue, saying they were nearly out of food and power and had been forced to move patients to higher floors to escape looters.

"We have been trying to call the mayor's office, we have been trying to call the governor's office ... we have tried to use any inside pressure we can. We are turning to you. Please help us," said Dr. Norman McSwain, chief of trauma surgery at Charity Hospital, the largest of two public hospitals.

Charity is across the street from Tulane University Medical Center, a private facility that has almost completed evacuating more than 1,000 patients and family members, he said.

No such public resources are available for Charity, which has about 250 patients, or University Hospital several blocks away, which has about 110 patients.

"We need coordinated help from the government," McSwain said.

He described horrific conditions.

"There is no food in Charity Hospital. They're eating fruit bowl punch and that's all they've got to eat. There's minimal water," McSwain said.

"Most of their power is out. Much of the hospital is dark. The ICU (intensive care unit) is on the 12th floor, so the physicians and nurses are having to walk up floors to see the patients."

Dr. Lee Hamm, chairman of medicine at Tulane University, said he took a canoe from there to the two public hospitals, where he also works, to check conditions.

"The physicians and nurses are doing an incredible job, but there are patients laying on stretchers on the floor, the halls were dark, the stairwells are dark. Of course, there's no elevators. There's no communication with the outside world," he said.

"We're afraid that somehow these two hospitals have been left off ... that somehow somebody has either forgotten it or ignored it or something, because there is no evidence anything is being done."

Where is the Louisiana National Guard?! Oh yes, I remember.