In retrospect I wish he had also mentioned health care.
Though their article is now six months old, Ruth E. Berggren & Tyler J. Curiel, After the Storm -- Health Care Infrastructure in Post-Katrina New Orleans, 354 New Engl. J. Med. 1549-155( April 13, 2006) remains essential reading. Berggren and Curiel's observations still ring true because their four basic findings still apply to greater New Orleans, more than a year after the storm:
- New Orleans, which was short on hospital beds relative to other cities before Katrina, has yet to regain half beds. Crucial health care facilities simply remain closed. Many services are being delivered in trailers, converted recreational vehicles, and other patchwork facilities. The area's population has fallen, to be sure. But New Orleans does survive, and hospitals that are closed serve no one.
- Many area physicians left after Katrina, having lost housing, schooling, and/or spousal employment. Many of these physicians have not come back.
- The influx of transients, drawn by employment related to the reconstruction effort, puts pressure on the area's compromised health care system. Health care in New Orleans has always had to deal with the area's disproportionate share of indigent, uninsured patients. Now the city and its surrounding parishes have even more patients of this sort.
- Independent of personnel, the health care demands of greater New Orleans have skyrocketed, as one might expect of an area that bore the brunt of the greatest natural disaster in American history.