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From: Bart (129.171.32.13)
Subject:         Report Slams Bush Medical Response to Katrina
Date: December 10, 2005 at 6:56 am PST

Report Slams Bush Administration Medical Response to Katrina

By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press WriterSat Dec 10, 1:46 AM ET

The federal government's medical response to Hurricane Katrina was bungled by a lack of supplies and poor communication, according to a congressional report released Friday.

The report, based in part on interviews with doctors who responded to the hurricane, says the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was unable to effectively set up field hospitals and handle the medical emergencies in the Louisiana Superdome, where thousands of evacuees were stuck for days after New Orleans flooded.

"The entire system is broken and we need to fix it before the next major disaster strikes, whether it's another hurricane or — Heaven help us — a terrorist attack," said U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La.

The report said the nation's medical response system has been underfunded and mismanaged since it was taken out of the Department of Health and Human Services.

DHS spokesman Butch Kinerney disagreed that the system was flawed or underfunded.

He said the National Disaster Medical System — made up of volunteer doctors, nurses and emergency medical workers — treated an unprecedented 160,000 people after the hurricane hit.

However, doctors said "urgent requests for pain medication, IV lines, catheters, and other equipment were held up for days" because of disorganization and lack of money, according to the report.

It described doctors using manual resuscitation masks rather than ventilators for hours and patients lying on the floor in New Orleans' international airport.

It also said medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile failed to reach medical teams within 12 hours, as stipulated under disaster plans, instead taking three days to get to New Orleans — and even then there was a shortage.

Doctors also complained of being stymied by a lack of satellite telephones, needed because land lines were out and cellular phone service was spotty.

Dr. Richard N. Bradley, an expert in emergency medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, said the report highlighted a need for each disaster team to have full-time staff to keep supplies stocked and equipment ready.

He said many doctors returning from New Orleans complained of similar problems as those cited in the report.

"In training we always get the message that we are not here to take charge," he said. "But we don't really train for the catastrophic situation in which a community is completely destroyed."

Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press.

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