Six months after Katrina, this is the best we can do?
New Orleans' Uninsured Get Primitive Care
Angela Jaster was wearing a turtleneck when she fell and broke her arm and so for days, she didn't change her shirt because she couldn't raise her arm.
The swelling stretched the fabric. Even though the pain was nearly unbearable, she did not consider going to the hospital, because in this flooded city there is only one for the uninsured and it doesn't treat broken bones.
It was only when the pain sent her into a hyperventilating panic several weeks later that her family called an ambulance and had her taken to the convention center....
Yup -- the convention center.
Inside their plastic and canvas walls, the doctors can only offer the most rudimentary care: They can X-ray bones, but not set them. They can draw blood and diagnose an ailment, but not treat it beyond prescribing pills. And with no ER and no capacity to operate, they can't do much more than stabilize trauma patients before sending them by ambulance elsewhere, often far away....
In Jaster's case, the doctors X-rayed her arm inside a tent where images of broken limbs hung like posters. But with no orthopedist on call, she was given an appointment at a hospital a 1 1/2-hour's drive away to get a cast.
"I don't have a car. The bus leaves in the evening, they can only see me in the morning -- and there's no vacancies in the hotels," said Jaster, who a month after her fall has run out of options and says she plans to let the break heal on its own, treating the pain with nothing more than ibuprofen, a non-prescription painkiller....
And that's just a broken arm. You don't want to be broke have be suffering from worse than that:
"If you have cancer, my advice is move. If you need dialysis, go. Get out of here. If you have any major illness and are uninsured, we cannot possibly accommodate your needs. You will die sooner if you stay here," said Dr. Peter DeBlieux, the head of emergency services for what remains of Charity Hospital.
I guess we're all supposed to just go spend money on Bourbon Street, so, in the long run, the magic of the free market can fill the pockets of capitalists, who, we fervently hope, will be inspired to build a brand-spanking-new charity hospital -- eventually. Until such time, God forbid we should intervene (with, if nothing else, subsidized transportation to real hospitals for the people whose need is greatest). Let the market work its magic; in the meantime, the poor can just drop dead.
UPDATE: Well, a new charity/veterans' hospital will be built in New Orleans, it says here -- if the city can come up with its share of the money. The hospital could open in, er, five years. Meanwhile, a Veterans Affairs undersecretary, Jonathan Perlin, tells us that
President Bush has either secured from, or proposed to, Congress about $675 million for health-care recovery in southeast Louisiana. Perlin said that gives him confidence the Bush administration is committed to restoring health-care services to the area.
That's nice, but what do desperately ill poor people in New Orleans do now?