Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Katrina flood followed by a flood of lawsuits

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Sheri Fink at ProPublica:

Three years before Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, a senior executive at Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital assessed its vulnerability to the sort of flooding that had been long feared there.

His conclusion is now evidence in a lawsuit against Methodist that could have significant implications for hospitals nationwide.

“The first question is, do we have generators placed to accommodate an emergency flood with 15 feet of water?” wrote Cameron B. Barr, then an executive vice president. “The answer to that question is no.” One of the two main generators was located on a roof, he said, but another “would be nonfunctional at about two feet of flood water around the generator.”

Not only would it have to be relocated, he said, but the power plant and an underground tunnel connecting the plant to the hospital would have to be protected.

As a “back of the envelope” estimate, Mr. Barr wrote, “to protect the Hospital, East Tower, power plant building and to relocate the emergency generators and fuel supply would probably be a $7.5 million project.”

But the money was never spent, the power went out, and the hospital’s life-support machines stopped working. Now, the family of Althea LaCoste, a 73-year-old patient who died in what her family’s lawyers allege was sweltering heat after nurses spent hours pumping air into her lungs by hand in the pitch dark, is raising a potentially far-reaching legal question: How prepared do hospitals have to be for the worst possible circumstances?

More than 100 deaths occurred in New Orleans-area hospitals and nursing homes after Hurricane Katrina when emergency backup power systems failed and patients languished for days awaiting transport. About 200 lawsuits have been filed in Louisiana alleging that these institutions are liable for the deaths and for the suffering of other patients who survived because corporate failure to plan adequately for flooding and implement evacuation constituted negligence or medical malpractice.

The LaCoste trial is set to begin on Monday…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 January 2010 at 2:43 pm

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