Posted by R. Neal

Housing isn't the only crisis in New Orleans. Health care is turning into a medical emergency:

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.

Hundreds or perhaps thousands of doctors and nurses never returned to New Orleans after the flood; long-term and psychiatric hospitals, not to mention hospices and rehabilitation centers, are now almost nonexistent in and around the city.

As a result, the returning residents have filled the functioning hospitals in and immediately around the city to capacity and beyond. Waiting times in emergency rooms have extended to as much as six hours, medical personnel at three hospitals reported.

Early one recent morning, doctors and nurses at East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie, just outside of New Orleans, were already caring for five seriously ill or injured patients in the emergency room - because the hospital had no more beds to admit them to - while still managing a full load of incoming emergency patients near the entrance. Then two trauma victims from a car accident were brought in, followed by someone showing signs of appendicitis.

The article says that doctors and hospitals are worried about the onset of flu season and the upcoming Mardi Gras celebrations because they aren't prepared and don't have the resources to handle the expected medical needs of the community.

Officials also say that if projections for July 1 population levels are accurate, they will need to triple the number of hospital beds and hire "2,500 new medical staff members in six months" which will involve "extraordinary expense" for housing and incentives. Further, rebuilding hospitals and community clinics is expected to take a year or more in some cases.

This is just one of many disasters after the disaster facing New Orleans.