Sunday, June 24, 2007

New Orleans deaths up 47% ...

By Steve Sternberg, USA TODAY

Hurricane Katrina's tragic aftermath lingered for at least a year after the storm abated, boosting New Orleans' death rate last year by 47% compared with two years before the levees broke, researchers reported Thursday.

Doctors say the dramatic surge in deaths comes as no surprise in a city of 250,000 mostly poor and middle-class people who lost seven of 22 hospitals and half of the city's hospital beds. More than 4,486 doctors were displaced from three New Orleans parishes, creating a shortage that still hampers many hospitals, says a companion study released Thursday.

The indigent suffered the brunt of the health toll from the 2005 storm. The Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans, two hospitals that made up the city's safety net for the uninsured, were severely damaged. Charity Hospital, oldest and best known of the two, remains closed.

"We're facing a lot of health care challenges. I'm sure that has a significant impact on mortality," says Kevin Stephens, director of the New Orleans Health Department and lead author of the study, in the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness. The study on doctor relocation, led by Kusuma Madamala of the American Medical Association, is in the same journal.

Stephens' study contrasts with one carried out by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, which found "only slight excesses" in deaths in New Orleans Parish.

That study, released in May, found a death rate of 14.3 per 1,000 people during the first three months of 2006, compared with 11.3 per 1,000 for three-month spans in 2002 and 2004.

But Stephens says the state's figure still tops the U.S. rate of 8.1 per 1,000. "We don't think that's a slight increase, we've think it's a tremendous increase in mortality," he says. He called the state's numbers "inaccurate and incomplete" because they don't count deaths of evacuees who left Louisiana.

Frederick Cerise, Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals, said it's "hard to track deaths that occurred out of state." He adds, "We saw a spike in the first quarter of 2006 that has not been sustained since then."

Stephens says that poor people who left the city had trouble getting health care wherever they landed.

"We can get hung up on the numbers, but the bottom line is that people are dying at a faster rate here post-Katrina," says Jullette Saussy, director of New Orleans EMS.

"The lack of primary care, of mental health care and of long waits in emergency rooms all have (worsened) people's normally controllable chronic diseases," she says. "Diabetes, respiratory disease and hypertension all are killers, especially when they're not dealt with."

The storm's impact on the state office that tracks vital statistics made those deaths difficult to measure. To get information, Stephens' team tracked death notices in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and compared the findings with the state's vital statistics. He said the study wasn't designed to determine what caused the excess deaths.

From January to June 2006, they found on average 1,317 death notices a month, for a mortality rate of about 91 per 100,000 people. In 2002 and 2004, the average was 924 notices a month, for a death rate of 62 per 100,000, 47% fewer than after the storm.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Setup in Cincinnati …

Our furniture arrived in Cincinnati on Wednesday via Allied Van Lines. Don’t use them; our stuff was pretty banged-up.

The first crisis of the day was that our delivery truck, an 18-wheeler, got stuck on a narrow street approaching our house. Several neighbors moved their parked cars, and before long the driver, Steve, managed to maneuver the truck to the front of our house.

Maybe someday we will be able to laugh about the move, but not yet. We are in an old house, and the entryway has a very low ceiling which made every piece moved a challenge. Our sofa did not make it, and was sent to storage.

The stairway to our upper floor is even more restrictive, and a desk and a box spring intended for the upper floor joined our sofa in storage. We will have to get a split box spring to finish our guest room. I didn't know there was such a thing as a split box spring before this move.

Steve’s moving crew was drawn from Berger, a local Allied agent. Dave and Tony were very good workers, but generated some friction with Steve. Mostly he had lots of advice but didn’t care to do much heavy lifting. Things evened out when he got a bit more involved.

Thursday and Friday were unpacking days, though it seems the remaining boxes are multiplying. Susan is repacking some things that we will probably not need in our year in this apartment, already trying to reduce the trauma of our next move. We expect that the next move will be to elsewhere in the Cincinnati area, but who knows?

Other than still being buried in boxes, we are enjoying our neighborhood, Hyde Park. We went to a neighborhood association meeting (boring) where we met some neat neighbors. They have invited us to a dinner party this weekend.

On Friday night we explored Newport on the Levee, a dining and entertainment development in Kentucky that looks across the Ohio River at the Cincinnati skyline. On Saturday we joined a gym and met a few of our fellow exercisers.

I think this is going to be fun.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, June 10, 2007

On the road again …

Driving from N.O. to Cincy was rather uneventful. We got a late start on Tuesday because the movers were loading up until about 2:30 p.m. Still we got as far as Meridian, MS.

On the second day we reached Nashville just as some Country Music Association event had filled up the local lodging capacity. All we could find was a smoking room in a Comfort Inn. As we entered the room there was a faint smell of smoke, but we quickly adapted.

We reached our objective on Thursday, Susan’s brother’s place in Dillsboro, IN. We are staying here, forty miles from Cincinnati, until our furniture arrives. It is on Wilderness Lane, a private road to a beautiful spread that includes a private lake (pond?). Harley’s wife Jascia, is on a hammock at the pond, watching son Benjamin swim in the pond as we arrive.

Friday was dedicated to checking out our new apartment and beginning to set up a new household. Best we could tell, the landlady fixed the problems we had noted in our visit last month.

Yuppies that we are, our first priorities were to line up a maid and a decorator. Next was a visit to the neighborhood Ace hardware, followed by Barnes and Noble (city maps), Linen’s and Things, and Best Buy. On Saturday we visited Lowe’s and Radio Shack in the Dillsboro area.

This afternoon we are going to a Cincy Newcomers Club meeting. We plan to be active in social and civic groups to develop our sense of belonging.

Cultural opportunities here are impressive. We subscribed to the Playhouse in the Park series. We will attend at least a couple of the Broadway series, and may attend some of the Shakespeare company’s events. Later this month we will attend the Summer Pops concert.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, June 03, 2007

In Transit …

We are mostly packed and leave New Orleans on Tuesday for Cincinnati. We will take three or so days to drive there, our furniture will take a few more days than that, and the car we are transporting a few days more.

Moving is harder than I remembered. For having been being wiped out by Katrina, we sure have a lot of stuff to move.

For the last week or so we have had an intense “farewell tour,” from Susan’s retirement party to my family gathering. In between we have dined with different friends at Galatoire’s and Commander’s, Liuzza’s and Brocato’s among other places.

It was nice of Mayor Nagin to report the state of the city just before our leaving. He did not have anything to say that would cause us to re-think the move. Does this make us part of the “brain drain?”

Once we get settled at the other end, perhaps an “arrival tour” would be in order. We will need to find a guide to the finer restaurants in Cincinnati; we have already booked a few cultural attractions over the summer.

We will soon have to re-assess our commitment to the New Orleans Bulletin (NOBull for short). Can an expatriate have any insight to offer to those still in New Orleans? Some comparisons to Cincinnati could be interesting in the short term, but might quickly wear thin.

Susan and I have a combined 95 years of living in greater New Orleans. When asked where we are from it will be quite a while before we think of saying anything other than N.O. We expect to return several times a year to visit our relatives and friends.

Stay in touch.


jbv's Competitive Edge