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What Happened At Memorial

During a five day period from late August into September 1, 2005, while 200 patients were trapped at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina flood waters, all power went out, and temperatures soared to over 105 degrees. The lack of sanitation created a rancid smell and no running water was available, basically transforming the hospital in a site for “third world medicine.”

Ambulatory patients were gathered in the lower floors to await airboats. The bedridden patients had to wait for days for the helicopter arrivals on the heliport atop the seven-story garage. While despairing that they would never arrive. Severely ill patients who were carried up to the roof, could only be fanned as they awaited helicopters. But by Wednesday, August 31, very few helicopters or boats came as Coast Guard resources were occupied pulling approximately 6,000 people from rooftops of homes in the flooded city.

On the morning of September 1, 2005, Dr. Pou and others were informed by the Tenet (hospital ownership) incident commander that “no help was coming” and apparently the hospital was to be abandoned. Dr. John Kokemor, who also heard this statement from Tenet’s incident commander told 60 Minutes he was “dumbfounded”. Dr. Pou and two nurses, after consulting with the incident commander in charge of evacuation and others, rendered palliative care and to ease the discomfort of a number of these bedridden acute-care patients on the seventh floor. The medical records of these patients reflected their serious medical condition which deteriorated with each passing hour.

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