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Hurricane Katrina Disaster Forum Please use this forum to discusss all news and information relating to Hurricane Katrina

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Old 09-17-2005, 01:06 PM
titantoo titantoo is offline
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Default A letter that Rob Minkes (pediatric surgery) wrote

I attached a letter that Rob Minkes (ped surg) wrote
to the college of surgeons if anyone is interested
about what happened at Children's. Nowhere near as
bad as UH, Charity, VA etc but still a good story of
people coming together in a time of great need.


I am chief of Pediatric Surgery at Louisiana State
University in New Orleans and Children's Hospital of
New Orleans.

I was in the Hospital from Sunday August 28 until
Thursday September 1.

Our hospital, Children's Hospital of New Orleans sits
on the edge of the levee of the Mississippi river in
Uptown New Orleans. We have no armed security.

There were over 700 people in the hospital including
patients and families, administration (our CEO and all
Vice Presidents) our medical director, several heads
of department including me, 2 cardiac surgeons,
physicians, residents, nurses and ancillary staff.

We survived the storm and the rising waters from the
break in the levee by the lake.

We were well prepared. We had enough fuel, food and
water for over a week.

There was access to the city by roads, air and the
Mississippi River. We, in fact, had a delivery of
fuel the day after the storm but diverted most of it
to a near by hospital since we had enough until other
reserves arrived.

We were in contact with local, state and federal
agencies including FEMA and Homeland Security. We had
landlines, Internet access and intermittent cell phone

We functioned on generators and I performed several
procedures. Our emergency room remained open and our
NICU and PICU were operational. Adult and children
patients, some ventilated from other facilities,
others off the streets began to show up at our

The day after the storm sporadic looting and violence
began all over New Orleans including our area. Most
people trapped in the city either at their homes or in
the Superdome and Convention Center were not the
thugs. They were mostly my patients and their
families, my co-workers, my neighbors and friends.
They were being dominated by a few ruthless thugs and
like us distraught over the lack of help and order.

We had initially planned to provide food and water for
any local citizens seeking them from our hospital. We
soon observed strangers walking through the halls. We
quickly realized that our visitors were threatening
the safety of our hospital. After they were escorted
out we locked down our hospital doors.

Although we were never attacked, the looters drove by
several times and knew we were functioning with
electricity and water. They potential for tragedy in
our hospital under these circumstances was enormous.

We contacted local police in Orleans and Jefferson
Parishes, State officials, including Governor Blanco's
office, FEMA and Homeland Security asking for armed

We never got any help. There were three local police
officers guarding a supermarket a half-mile down the
road and we never got any assistance.

Even though fear and despair was rampant throughout
the hospital everybody, I mean everybody, continued to
do their jobs while the hospital administration and
leadership begged for assistance.

I made several calls and got the most assistance from
Jim Brodie, Legislative Affairs Director of the
Florida Department of Veteran's Affairs and Fred
Chieco, a director of WABC in New York. Both were
exhausting measures to get us help. Both these men
provided hope for our employees and in my opinion
should be regarded as heroes.

On Wednesday morning (8/31) we lost water pressure and
therefore running water and full air conditioning
capacity. This was the first real threat to our
patient's health. Dr. Joseph Caspi and Dr. Timothy
Pettitt, pediatric cardiac surgeons and Fellows of the
college and I discussed our growing concern for our
patients. Dr. Caspi and our CEO, Steve Worley quickly
agreed evacuation was in order. Our hospital
administration worked on obtaining a replacement a
pump from our Coast Guard contact from Mr. Chieco.
They were also calling law and government officials
for assistance for a potential evacuation. It quickly
became clear that we were on our own.

Over the next 24 hours we evacuated our entire
hospital by whatever means we had. The only outside
help we had was from the medical community across the
country who accepted our patients and sent helicopters
to transport some of the children.

Our evacuation started Wednesday afternoon when Dr.
Caspi and Pettitt led a team to Baton Rouge in six
ambulances and the back of SUV's. Many of the babies
were hand-bag ventilated.

Patients were discharged so that families with
transportation could leave the hospital. Those with
cars and family who could drive into the city
evacuated. As our census decreased staff was

As evening approached we learned that National Guard
aircraft were at the airport and could fly out most of
our remaining ill patients as long as they could get
there by 7:00pm. We quickly mobilized a caravan of
about 40 cars, trucks and SUV's for the transport to
the area. Dr. John Heaton, the head of
anesthesiology, led a team of physicians, nurses,
staff and patient family members to the interstate and
airport. On the way back to the hospital they were
stopped by Jefferson Parish police inquiring about
their destination. Upon learning that they were
headed back to children's hospital the officer
responded "are you crazy, you are taking your life
into your own hands" and asked if they were armed.

Following the evening transport the hospital was down
to a few PICU patients and patients who could not get
rides. Through the night the PICU patients were
evacuated. At 4:00 am a State Trooper arrived at our
facility to support a chopper that came in to evacuate
a patient. Our PICU staff met the trooper outside the
hospital and he informed us that conditions were
worsening and recommended that the remainder of the
hospital be evacuated at first light. A PICU nurse,
through a family member, was able to get two State
Trooper Vehicles for the first caravan out. We asked
for two additional vehicles for the final caravan
after our last babies were to be evacuated. They
informed us that they broke rank to come to our
hospital and that we were "low priority."

A helicopter from Miami Children's Hospital arrived
around 8:00am to transport the last two babies. Dr.
Heaton and I then led the final caravan to I-10.
Everyone made it out safely.

Important points:

· Our area and much of the city survived the hurricane and flood.

· There was access to the city.

· Our hospital was well prepared and operational.

· There was no help for anyone in the entire city due to a lack of security.

· Our hospitals were as unprotected as the neighborhoods, the superdome and convention center.

· The thugs were a minority and could have been controlled.

· We are not as secure as we should be.

· Our local, state and federal government were and are not prepared to rapidly respond to a homeland disaster.

· We can and must do better and be prepared for the next disaster, natural or terrorist.

· We must take action

· Our politicians can be heroes by acknowledging the hard truth and speaking out now.

· We must do everything in our power as an organization to see that this happens.

· The only one to help was the medical community and it is clear that as surgeons we must be leaders in times of crisis.

· Our safety and the safety of our country depend on it.

· The world is watching us closely now.


Robert K. Minkes, MD, FACS

Chief, Pediatric Surgery

Children's Hospital of New Orleans

Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center
"Human nature will only find itself when it finally realizes that to be human it has to cease to be beastly or brutal." (Mohandas Gandhi, In Search of the Supreme)
"I learned that familiar paths traced in the dusk of summer evenings may lead as well to prisons as to innocent, untroubled sleep." (Albert Camus, The Stranger)
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