"We have to wait hours to offload a patient," Dr. Saussy said. "That means we're not going to have that unit available to answer the next 911 call."
In two weeks, Mardi Gras parades will begin rolling in New Orleans, bringing revelers intent on proving they can still party in the Big Easy. Unfortunately, New Orleans is down to one working adult hospital. That is a recipe for disaster.
The city needs this celebration both emotionally and financially, but its stricken hospital system requires help to ensure that it is a safe one. Doctors say the biggest problem is facilities, specifically hospital beds. There are no psychiatric beds available for mentally ill patients. And the lack of primary care means emergency rooms are swamped with people suffering from less pressing ailments. Emergency patients in Orleans and other parishes nearby are currently stuck on ambulance stretchers for a minimum of 45 minutes and up to six hours while waiting for treatment, according to city statistics.It's not enough. So far, the city has been unable to scrape together even small additions to prepare for Mardi Gras. Officials have asked for tents to expand the convention-center clinic and a mobile medical unit with 60 more beds for patients. But that is where the bureaucratic morass begins. City requests must be sent through the State of Louisiana, which forwards them to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for consideration. FEMA is still considering the request for the mobile unit, even as the clock is ticking down.