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"Unanswered stuff" at the St. Gabriel morgue

From "At Storm Victim's Funeral, a Celebration of a Life and a City":

Only 40 percent of the 883 bodies at the central morgue in St. Gabriel, La., have been released to families, and many victims - out of an estimated total of 1,050 in Louisiana and 230 in Mississippi - remain nameless or unclaimed.

Now, over to "Bungled Records of Storm Deaths Renew Anguish":

As families finally begin to receive the bodies of their relatives from St. Gabriel, many have found them accompanied by documents that, instead of shedding light on their deaths, point to enormous sloppiness in recordkeeping and procedures at the morgue.
Some have complained of bodies far more decomposed when they came out than when they went in; others that evacuees who died in the company of their families were taken to St. Gabriel without notice and kept there for weeks.
Moreover, as of Friday not a single DNA sample from victims had been matched against samples submitted by families over the past two months, said Dr. Louis Cataldie, the state emergency medical director. Dr. Cataldie said that was because federal officials had not yet approved a DNA testing contract with a laboratory. And the director of the federal mortuary team at the Find Family Call Center, responsible for communicating with the families of victims, was arrested last week on charges that he had solicited sex in a public park in Baton Rouge...
...Many were already upset by news reports about victims that have received prominent attention here, including unproved allegations of mercy killings in New Orleans hospitals during the flood and the cremation of some bodies in the northwestern parish of Caddo before their families could locate them...
...Dr. Cataldie is nominally responsible for the operations of the morgue and call center, although both are staffed by the federal Disaster Mortuary Operations Response Team, or Dmort. He acknowledged there had been considerable error entry, and said some bodies had been delivered without accurate paperwork noting where they had been found.
In the past week, Dr. Cataldie has begun to review all the paperwork filled out by Kenyon Worldwide Disaster Management, a company hired by the federal government to collect many of the bodies, in an effort to ferret out errors. It is possible, he said, that some mistakes can be explained by missing street signs or unfamiliar place names.
He has less control over the stalled DNA tests, for which the state police crime laboratory initially assumed responsibility. Officials at the state Department of Health and Hospitals said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency declined to approve contracts negotiated by the state police with two laboratories, saying the contracts were too expensive. The agency has since shifted responsibility for the contract to the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Nicol Andrews, a spokeswoman for FEMA, said the agency had been struggling to find a way legally to use federal money to pay for the tests because the state was unable to front the costs, and had only recently concluded that the health and hospitals department could do so...
"I realize that we're dealing with a catastrophe, and grief is part of life," said Cindy Jensen, whose father, LeRoy LaRive, is listed as having been found in an apartment miles from his home - an apartment where another older man also died. "But not this kind of stuff. Unanswered stuff. Not knowing the details."
...From the first days after Hurricane Katrina, the process of identifying and burying the dead has been troubled by problems. It took more than a week for officials to begin collecting bodies, and the state fell far behind neighboring Mississippi in getting bodies back to families. Even now, only 358 of the 883 victims processed at St. Gabriel (there are 1,050 victims in Louisiana) have been released to families, and in 150 cases, workers have no leads on the identities of the bodies...

Previously: Who delayed body collection: Blanco, FEMA, or Kenyon? and Mortician contradicts reports downplaying crime, Part 2.

"Katrina Cough" due to mold, dust

Drudge says the L.A. Times will report on "Katrina Cough", which has afflited a "large number" of people and is due to all the mold and dust in the air:

Health officials are trying to determine how widespread the problem is, but suggest that it is popping up among people who have returned to storm-ravaged areas, particularly New Orleans.
Dr. Dennis Casey, an ear, nose and throat doctor in New Orleans, called the condition "very prevalent.'' And Dr. Kevin Jordan, director of medical affairs at Touro Infirmary and Memorial Medical Center in downtown New Orleans, said the hospital has seen at least a 25 percent increase in sinus headaches, congestion, runny noses and sore throats since Katrina.
In most cases, Casey said, patients appear to be "allergic to the filth they are exposed to.'' Those allergies make the patients more susceptible to respiratory illness, including bacterial bronchitis and sinusitis.

UPDATE: The article is here.


Public hospitals: repair for $375 million, replace for $567 million

From this:

The LSU official in charge of the state's charity hospital system says it would cost $258 million to repair Charity Hospital and $395 million to replace it.
Don Smithburg, chief executive officer of the Louisiana State University Health Care Systems Division, told the LSU Board of Supervisors on Friday that federal guidelines call for replacing a building if repair costs would be more than half replacement costs.
For Charity, south Louisiana's only trauma center which was shut down by Hurricane Katrina, repairs would cost 65 percent of the replacement costs.
It would be an even higher percentage -- 68 percent -- for University Hospital: $172 million to replace it and $117.5 million to fix, he said.


Public hospital system on verge of financial collapse

From this:

Two months after Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana's public hospital system is on the verge of financial collapse unless federal aid is forthcoming quickly, the head of the system said Thursday.
"We're out of money, roughly after Thanksgiving," said Donald Smithburg, chief executive of the LSU Health Care Services Division told reporters. "We are running out of time."
Smithburg said the system, Louisiana's largest health care provider with 1.2 million patients annually before the storm, will have to furlough 2,900 of its 8,000 employees next week, the first step toward permanent layoffs on Dec. 17.
Two of the system's nine hospitals, Charity and University in New Orleans, have been closed since they were severely damaged in the storm. They are the system's two biggest hospitals and include one of only two trauma care units in the state.
Hospital system engineers have declared both Charity and University a total loss, but Smithburg said the system is awaiting a final decision from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on whether the two facilities will qualify under federal disaster law for full federal funding of replacements, about $750 million.


Doctor's personal accounts

Several doctors have written personal accounts of the storm in the New England Journal of Medicine. The section starts here, and a summary is here.
If there's something in there related to any topics covered here, please leave a comment.

Did Memorial Medical Center doctors euthanize patients?

In "Staff at New Orleans hospital debated euthanizing patients", CNN says an investigation has been launched.
The month-old post "Storm victims euthanized" has an orderly saying that this definitely happened, and that report includes a couple names. However, neither name makes it to the CNN report for some reason.
From the earlier report:

One New Orleans doctor told how she "prayed for God to have mercy on her soul" after she ignored every tenet of medical ethics and ended the lives of patients she had earlier fought to save.

From CNN:

The Louisiana attorney general's office is investigating allegations that mercy killings occurred and has requested that autopsies be performed on all 45 bodies taken from the hospital after the storm.
Orleans Parish coroner Frank Minyard said investigators have told him they think euthanasia may have been committed...
Dr. Bryant King, who was working at Memorial when conditions were at their worst, told CNN that while he did not witness any acts of euthanasia, "most people know something happened that shouldn't have happened."
..."It was battle conditions," said Fran Butler, a nurse manager. "It was as bad as being out in the field."
...Butler also told CNN that a doctor approached her at one point and discussed the subject of putting patients to sleep, and "made the comment to me on how she was totally against it and wouldn't do it."
Butler said she did not see anyone perform a mercy killing, and she said because of her personal beliefs, she would never have participated...
...But King said he is convinced the discussion of euthanasia was more than talk. He said another doctor came to him at 9 a.m. Thursday and recounted a conversation with a hospital administrator and a third doctor who suggested patients be put out of their misery.
King said that the second physician -- who opposed mercy killing -- told him that "this other [third] doctor said she'd be willing to do it."
About three hours later, King said, the second-floor triage area where he was working was cleared of everyone except patients, a second hospital administrator and two doctors, including the physician who had first raised the question of mercy killing.
King said the administrator asked those who remained if they wanted to join in prayer -- something he said had not occurred at the hospital since Katrina ripped through the city.
One of the physicians then produced a handful of syringes, King said.
"I don't know what's in the syringes. ... The only thing I heard the physician say was, 'I'm going to give you something to make you feel better,' " King said...


Unemployment aid provided, Medicaid aid not

U.S. House backs Katrina aid, cuts impotence drugs

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved $500 million in aid to Hurricane Katrina victims, financed by stopping federal payments for impotence drugs.
The House voted to free up the $500 million to help Katrina-affected Gulf states pay unemployment benefits to storm victims.

Senators vent frustration over Katrina aid bill

Leaders of a Senate committee including its Republican head bluntly accused the Bush administration on Thursday of sabotaging a bill to provide Medicaid health assistance for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
"Unfortunately, the White House is working against me behind the scenes, and I resent that, considering how I've delivered so much for the White House over the last five years," Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley (news, bio, voting record) said at a hearing on recovery efforts from the U.S. Gulf Coast hurricanes.
Grassley, of Iowa, has been a key ally of
President George W. Bush's proposal to overhaul the
Social Security retirement system at a time when other Republicans have been wary.
He and the committee's top Democrat, Montana Sen. Max Baucus (news, bio, voting record), are pushing a bill that would ease Medicaid eligibility requirements for storm victims for five months and provide states with reimbursement for 100 percent of costs for such patients.
Costs for Medicaid, the health care program for the poor, are normally split between Washington and the states.

LA death toll 964, MS at 221; are those too low?

Unless someone reports something, they've stopped counting in Louisiana:

State and federal agencies have finished their sweeps through the city, but Kenyon International Emergency Services, the private company hired by the state to remove the bodies, is on call if any other body is found, said Bob Johannessen, a spokesman with the state Department of Health and Hospitals...
Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it had completed its role in the search because its specialties were no longer needed, including getting to bodies in attics or other hard-to-reach places or in buildings that may be structurally unsound.
FEMA did nearly 23,000 thorough room-to-room searches in New Orleans with about a dozen teams of emergency workers...

See also "Families Lose Loved Ones Again -- in a Bureaucratic Mire":

...A month after Katrina upended the lives of hundreds of thousands, families of the dead have been traumatized again by the ordeal of trying to pry their loved ones' bodies from a bureaucratic quagmire. They say they have spent weeks being rebuffed or ignored by state and federal officials at a massive temporary morgue that houses hundreds of decomposed corpses...
...[The state official in charge of the morgue, Dr. Louis Cataldie], a former medical examiner, acknowledged that identifying and releasing bodies had been painfully slow. Of more than 800 bodies delivered to the St. Gabriel morgue, he said, 32 have been positively identified and 340 have been tentatively identified...
"I'm a professional in the business, a licensed funeral director, and they won't tell me anything," [someone else] said. "It's ridiculous how secretive they are."

Now, for the questions the MSM should be asking but isn't, let's turn to, yes, the DUmmies:
Sep 30 Katrina Officially missing 10,417; Officially dead 935 LA, 221 MS
The numbers are not in the "dead' but the "missing'
What is the actual Bush body count in New Orleans and...
Also, "Many listed as missing may not be after all":

About 2,500 people are still listed as missing or unaccounted for more than a month after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. But fortunately, the numbers are misleading, according to Larry Upchurch, deputy director of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Upchurch said he is confident the vast majority of people on the list - most of them children - have been reunited or at least been in contact with their loved ones, although officials haven't been notified.

The 9/29 LAT article "Katrina's Corpses Are Many, IDs Are Few" (also here and here) appears to be the predecessor to the above LAT article, and, oddly enough, it contains this:

With 10 bodies recovered Tuesday, officials said, the number of flood victims in the state Wednesday was 896. Just more than 100 bodies were turned over to local coroners and are not included in the tally at the temporary morgue.

Also odd, the Concord Monitor version of the LAT article, entitled "Loss of bodies adds to grief of many families", contains this:

Cataldie, a former medical examiner, acknowledged that identifying and releasing bodies has been painfully slow. Of the nearly 8,000 bodies taken to the morgue, he said, just 32 have been identified positively and another 340 have been identified tentatively.

What an odd typo to make. Is that what it said in the original LAT article, and the LAT changed it? Or, did the CM change it, then add the comma to the number? I'll ask: news *at*
UPDATE: The NYT's "Weeks Later, Most Storm Victims Lie Unnamed" doesn't have much more beyond what's above.

Unanswered: Helicopters fired? Flight suspension order?

According to Shots at helicopters shrouded in a 'fog', the official word from the Air Force, Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security and Louisiana Air National Guard is that they haven't been able to confirm any incidents of shots being fired at helicopters. The same goes for "members of several rescue crews who were told to halt operations".

The storm created so much confusion that government officials cannot even agree on whether they ever issued an order to halt flights or other rescue efforts...
On the morning of Sept. 1, Mike Sonnier was directing rescue helicopters at his company, Acadian Ambulance, when one of his pilots called to say the military had suspended flights after gunfire was reported in the air near the Louisiana Superdome.
[He shut down flights...] Sonnier said that when he checked with the National Guard about two hours later, he was told it was OK to fly. At that point Acadian resumed operations. Even today, it's not clear whether a military order to stop flying was ever actually made.

Then, they include a USCG quote reprinted in "Sep 1: Charity, University hospitals situation" and say this:

...But that initial report proved hard to confirm. Two Coast Guard spokesmen who were asked in recent days about helicopter shootings said there were no incidents of any Coast Guard personnel or vehicles taking fire.

That's a bit at odds with the previous link.

''We don't know of any shots ever fired directly at us,'' said Capt. Bob Mueller, commander of the Guard's New Orleans station. "But there were a number of reports of shots fired in the air. There were two occasions where all helos were directed to land. I believe those orders came from the Superdome. Our flatboats did stand down Sept. 1.''
Lt. Pete Schneider, a spokesman for the National Guard, which was handling Superdome evacuations, said it was a civilian who told guardsmen in the area that shots had been fired. Schneider said flights continued despite the danger...
But a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency, contradicted that statement, saying Superdome flights were temporarily suspended because of gunfire.
The confusion affected more than just helicopter crews. Florida Task Force 1 was using boats to reach the stranded but not on Sept. 1.
Because of reports of gunfire, a FEMA support team ordered the Florida task force to stop work for the entire day unless law enforcement protection could be found, task force leader Dave Downey said.
That help never came. Meanwhile, thousands of people were stuck in attics and on roofs of flooded houses in New Orleans.
''We had just had a very successful day before,'' when they rescued 400 people, said Downey, whose crew manned boats. "It definitely slowed down our rescue efforts . . .
...FEMA sent mixed messages in recent days on whether rescue efforts were placed on hold.
''If, on the ground, if they were in middle of a search and they were being shot at, for safety reasons, they may have temporarily put that search on hold,'' said Deborah Wing, a FEMA spokeswoman in Washington.
Later, she said by e-mail that no operations were ever suspended, despite "reports of gunfire.''
Some who were in New Orleans that day described moments of real peril. Tyler Curiel, a cancer doctor at Tulane University Hospital, said a sniper shot at him and his military escorts in the street as they evacuated patients from Tulane and Charity hospitals.
Curiel said the gunman was in a nearby parking deck shooting at Charity's emergency room about noon Sept. 1.
One month later, Downey, of Florida Task Force 1, isn't sure the decision to halt operations was the right one...

Sep 1: Charity, University hospitals situation

This is an AP report from Thursday, Sep. 1. "Two New Orleans hospitals plead for help":

Doctors at two desperately crippled hospitals in New Orleans called The Associated Press Thursday morning pleading for rescue, saying they were nearly out of food and power and had been forced to move patients to higher floors to escape looters.
"We have been trying to call the mayor's office, we have been trying to call the governor's office ... we have tried to use any inside pressure we can. We are turning to you. Please help us," said Dr. Norman McSwain, chief of trauma surgery at Charity Hospital, the largest of two public hospitals.
Charity is across the street from Tulane University Medical Center, a private facility that has almost completed evacuating more than 1,000 patients and family members, he said.
No such public resources are available for Charity, which has about 250 patients, or University Hospital several blocks away, which has about 110 patients...
[conditions described]
"Hospitals are trying to evacuate," said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesan, spokesman at the city emergency operations center. "At every one of them, there are reports that as the helicopters come in people are shooting at them. There are people just taking pot shots at police and at helicopters, telling them, 'You better come get my family."'
Richard Zuschlag, president of Acadian Ambulance Service Inc., described the chaos at a suburban hospital.
"We tried to airlift supplies into Kenner Memorial Hospital late last evening and were confronted by an unruly crowd with guns, and the pilots refused to land," he said.
"My medics were crying, screaming for help. When we tried to land at Kenner, my pilots got scared because 100 people were on the helipad and some of them had guns. He was frightened and would not land."

Regarding Zuschlag, see the discussion in "Who said a sniper fired at a helicopter? Where is the evidence?"


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