Healthcare providers improve disaster plans

September 8, 2006
Reported by Pam Dixon

After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, thousands of medical professionals scrambled to provide care for the sick under some of the most difficult conditions they'd ever seen. But as KPLC's Pam Dixon reports, if Louisiana ever finds itself in a similar disaster, healthcare providers say they will be better prepared.

During the dark days of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, healthcare providers had to endure great obstacles to care for the ill. More than 200 patients and their caregivers arrived at a special needs shelter at McNeese before and after Katrina. Registered nurses Gerry Fusilier and Joy Griggs worked at the shelter for four weeks. Griggs says, "We were very short on staff so we're looking at really this year a lot of volunteers across the nation to help us out if we should open another shelter at the magnitude we did." Fusilier says, "We did our best to take care of them. We tried to get them to facilities that they needed to go to that we could not handle, and hopefully we can do the same thing and even a better job of it this time."

Fusilier and Griggs were among some 40 nurses attending a conference to learn more about caring for the chronically ill in shelters during disasters. Speaker Pamela Metoyer says, "You could lose 100 well people trying to save ten sick people, so you do have to make those decisions." They also brushed up on their skills, skills many may not have used in a while, but are needed for crisis care. Speaker Pamela Metoyer is a statewide nurse consultant with the Office of Public Health. Metoyer says, "No one was prepared for what happened last year. I don't think that if that had happened anywhere in the United States anyone would have been prepared. But since it happened to us and we were directly impacted, we're better prepared should something happen this year. We're better prepared on paper. We're better prepared physically."

Metoyer says healthcare providers have developed better action plans that include obtaining federal assistance faster. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals' Office of Public Health sponsored the seminar at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.