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Hospitals in Hurricane Katrina

Challenges Facing Custodial Institutions in a Disaster

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Document date: July 14, 2006
Released online: July 14, 2006

The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.

Note: This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF).

The text below is a portion of the complete document.


The evacuation order contained exemptions for certain people, including city, state and federal officials, inmates of the parish prison, those in hospitals, tourists staying in hotels, and members of the media.
—New Orleans Times-Picayune, Sunday, August 28, 2005

Hospitals were part of the problem and the solution during the Hurricane Katrina crisis. They cared for some of the city’s most vulnerable people, but they also presented some of its most difficult challenges once flooding made evacuation necessary.

In the days after Hurricane Katrina struck and New Orleans’ infrastructure failed, hospitals and other organizations that have custodial responsibility for human beings (such as nursing homes and jails) faced special difficulties. In some two dozen hospitals, patients had to be evacuated because of the loss of power, water, and sewage service, and many of these hospitals required external assistance that was slow to arrive. Meanwhile, patients’ needs for care continued unabated. Some hospitals evacuated all patients successfully, but by the end of that long week, some had become places of death.

This paper explores what happened in New Orleans–area hospitals during and after Hurricane Katrina and why hospitals had such varied experiences. We conclude with lessons based on the Katrina experience.

Note: This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF).

Read more reports from UI's After Katrina research.



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