My first blog during our trip to NOLA is an excerpt from one of my journal entries, dated Thursday, May 20, 2010. Sorry for the delay!
After work today, we had our usual check-in, and followed that with a guest speaker, Tanya Harris, a Community Organizer who had previously worked with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). Tanya, whom I had heard of before from various Hurricane Katrina documentaries, came to Camp Hope to speak with the group about a wide variety of topics. Tanya was hilarious, and preferred that we had more of a conversation rather than having her simply talk to us. I was most interested in what she had to say regarding healthcare in New Orleans post-Katrina, and the struggles that the residents now have in order to receive even the most basic of care.
Tanya had mentioned a few things to me that really stood out. I’ll reiterate those points here, along with some additional information I have read about the topic:
- Suicides have more than doubled in NOLA since Hurricane Katrina. This is due to increased mental health issues, which may have been brought on by the storm, and the lack of accessible healthcare available, which most certainly is a result of the storm.
- Charity Hospital is still not open almost 5 years post-Katrina. Previously, Charity Hospital had serviced many of the low and moderate income individuals in New Orleans. Without Charity Hospital, it is much more challenging for these individuals to access the healthcare that they require.
- There has been talk of reopening Charity Hospital however, there is no definite timeline or location at this time, despite the abandoned building being deemed structurally sound and having been completely scrubbed and sanitized to meet medical standards.
- New Orleans East still does not have a hospital, almost five years post-Katrina. It is approximately a 25 minute drive to the nearest hospital from New Orleans East, without any delays due to traffic, weather, etc. Again, another scenario where needy individuals do not have timely and accessible healthcare.
- Following on the previous point, a man was shot in New Orleans East and an ambulance was called. Since there is currently no hospital in New Orleans East, it took 35 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Unfortunately, he died before the ambulance made it.
Seeing as my field of choice is healthcare, this topic fascinates me. I am accustomed to the five principles of the Canada Health Act (public administration, comprehensiveness, accessibility, universality, and portability), and it is so obvious to me that the universality and accessibility principles are far from being recognized. I do realize that here in New Orleans, there is no obligation to adhere to similar principles as we do with the Canada Health Act, but still, it baffles me that something so basic as healthcare for their residents can be overlooked and or ignored. I sincerely hope that in the future the importance of rebuilding the hospitals in the area is recognized, for the sake of the residents.