The report found that states were making good progress in developing bed reporting systems and coordinating with military and veterans hospitals, as well as in selecting alternate care sites and registering medical volunteers. It also noticed that they were lagging when it came to planning for altered standards of care.
In a story that is being co-published by The New York Times Magazine and ProPublica, Sheri Fink, M.D., painstakingly reconstructed the hectic, troubling events that transpired at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans in the days after Hurricane Katrina swept through the city. In that time, 45 patients died at the center – more than at any comparable hospital in the area – and, although a grand jury did not issue any indictments in relation to the deaths, there are indications that some of the deceased patients may have been euthanized.
Fink “obtained previously unavailable records and interviewed dozens of people who were involved in the events at Memorial and the investigation that followed.” She writes that more medical professionals and more patients were involved than previously thought and that “Several were almost certainly not near death when they were injected, according to medical professionals who treated them at Memorial and an internist’s review of their charts and autopsies that was commissioned by investigators but never made public.”
In addition to the doctors, nurses and patients involved in the controversial deaths, Fink also tells the story of the coroner and investigators charged with untangling the post-Katrina events at Memorial Medical Center and how they struggled to administer justice while taking into account the extraordinary circumstances that followed the hurricane.
The extensive package includes a video interview with Fink about how her background as a physician, humanitarian aid workers and previous reporting on medical care in wartime conditions helped her report this story.
Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.
Disasters are a time of chaos and uncertainty. To perhaps lessen this chaos for reporters, a panel of experts at Health Journalism 2009 in Seattle discussed how journalists might cover and survive disasters as well as understand the medical systems in place to handle them. The panelists offered insight into the many wheels set in motion when a disaster strikes and how journalists can prepare for and understand what might happen should one hit their community.