When a tragedy happens, ascertaining who was at fault is part of avoiding repetition. Unfortunately, more people died at Memorial than should have. The deaths at Memorial Hospital in the wake of hurricane Katrina were tragic and avoidable.
Who was to blame?
Government: The government at all levels was UNPREPARED, AND COMPOUNDED THIS RESPONSIBILITY when it abandoned not only the patients but also the medical personnel treating them at Memorial Hospital. The lack of police protection, delayed rescue efforts and the LACK OF STRATEGIC PLANNING ENSURED TRAGIC OUTCOMES ACROSS THE CITY......
LifeCare: LifeCare Corporation, was a for-profit company which rented space in the hospital from Tenet, Memorial’s parent company. LifeCare ran Long Term Acute Care facilities, whose patients were disproportionately old and acutely ill, many already in the last days of their lives. THEIR OWN WEBSITE AT THE TIME DESCRIBED THEIR PATIENTS AS OFTEN HAVING CATASTROPHIC SYSTEM FAILURES. Many were dependent on sophisticated machines. Besides the space at Memorial, LifeCare operated a second small facility in nearby St. Bernard Parish AS WELL AS SEVERAL OTHERS IN LOUISIANA AND OTHER LOCATIONS. Disregarding all logic, and apparently all regard for the safety of their patients, LifeCare opted to move their nineteen St. Bernard patients not out of harm’s way to LifeCare's Shreveport facility but back into it by moving them the short thirteen miles to Memorial. Moreover, they left these patients without a doctor to care for them. Why did LifeCare take the easy way out? Why were the LifeCare patients not evacuated to wherever the LifeCare medical director went? The answer can be summed up in one word: money. SIMPLY PUT, LIFECARE WAS IN THE PROCESS OF A MEGA-MILLION DOLLAR SALE AND TRANSFERRING PATIENTS TO THE CERTAIN SAFETY OF SHREVEPORT VERSUS NEW ORLEANS WAS NOT IN THE CARDS.
Who was not to blame?
The courageous doctors, nurses, pharmacists, therapists, nursing assistants, dietary workers and housekeeping personnel and patients, family members and other volunteers who worked long hours under arduous conditions to provide the best care possible to all patients.
Aug 31, 2005 Nurses aid patients on 2nd floor.
Sept 1st, 2005 6PM Exhausted Dr Richard Deichmann (Left) and Dr John Walsh (Right) await last helicopters out after the evacuation of all the remaining patients
However, we can look to the courts:
A class action suit was filed on behalf of non-Tenet employees, patients and relatives who were stranded at the Memorial facility during the hurricane which alleged a number of failures by Tenet Corporation, running the gamut from a failed evacuation policy to the improper location of generators in the basement of the facility which led to the complete loss of power. Tenet, while claiming no admission of liability, set up a $25 MILLION SETTLEMENT FUND for all non-Tenet employees, patients and visitors who were trapped at Memorial Hospital during Katrina. The class also excluded claimants who had individual settlements with Tenet. (Elmira Preston, et al vs. Tenet Health Systems, Memorial Medical Center, et al, CDC No. 2005-11709 c/w 2006-8861 Division “A,”)
Lifecare was not the subject of a class action, as it opted early on to pay substantial amounts of monies to family members of the twenty-four deceased patients, in lieu of trials. Further, SIX OF THE LIFECARE PATIENTS WHO WERE EVACUATED BY SEPTEMBER DIED SHORTLY AFTER THEIR EVACUATION, FURTHER SHOWING THAT THE DEATH OF THOSE AT MEMORIAL WAS NOT THE FAULT OF DR. POU OR ANY OTHER MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL AT MEMORIAL. While the drugs in question, given to patients at Memorial by doctor(s) to ease pain, are routinely used for the same purposes in hospitals around the world today, the cause of death of the six patients who died after being evacuated was related to the harsh conditions at the hospital and was without question unrelated to drugs."
Three lawsuits initially filed against Dr. Pou and the Memorial nurses have all been dismissed.
Aug 31st, 2005 Nurse Cheri Landry (Center-Arrested by Foti), and nurse Cathy Green (Right) tend to stranded patients.