Our hearts are heavy for what our neighbors in Alabama, the Florida Panhandle, Louisiana and Mississippi, are experiencing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
As I've been monitoring the news since Monday, hoping and praying that rescue workers can continue to safely reach those who have been stranded, that New Orleans is safely evacuated to get the water out of the city, that conditions in these areas start to improve instead of deteriorating as they are right now, I can't help but wonder what the long-term impact of this storm will be.
And, since we service the information needs of the healthcare industry, my thoughts have naturally turned to the impact of the storm on the healthcare industry.
Today's Chicago Tribune reported that at least 10 hospitals in New Orleans were using generator-supplied electricity, and several have already closed.
Other new sources have reported that hospitals all along the Gulf Coast are evacuating their patients and in some cases, treating evacuees from the hospitals that have been forced to close.
At the same time, these healthcare providers are looking at other short-term issues that must be resolved, the Tribune pointed out, beyond just getting their doors back open Ã¢â‚¬â€œ patients who need kidney dialysis, pharmaceutical needs, immunizations for children, contaminated water supplies that might spread infections, a possible wave of patients injured from clean-up efforts.
And, what about the long-term impacts Ã¢â‚¬â€œ surely in this wake of destruction, thousands upon thousands of these residents will need mental health counseling to deal with the losses they've suffered.
As a reporter by training and trade, my natural inclination is to interview healthcare provider organizations on how they've prepared for an event as devastating as this has been.
But how do you plan for what's been happening along our Gulf Coast? Despite the fact that contingency planning is a crucial part of healthcare providers' operating plans, I wonder if there is a contingency plan that could ever be developed to respond to what these areas are experiencing. Would yours?