By Ameena Rasheed
Nearly six years after Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans, some residents are still dealing with the aftermath of the storm. Since 2005, residents of New Orleans East neighborhood have gone without a hospital.
Although a full-service hospital will open in 2013, residents have had to either go to urgent-care clinics or go to a hospital downtown.
“The main complaint that I’ve heard is the time it takes to travel,” said New Orleans East resident Sydney Roussell, 21. “You have to go out of your way to get to a hospital. Depending on traffic it can take 20 minutes or longer.”
New Orleans Health Commissioner Karen DeSalvo is working on rebuilding health care facilities in the neighborhood, but says the task is an uphill battle.
“We can’t open a hospital overnight [because] it takes a lot of planning and time,” DeSalvo said. “You have to find physicians, make sure the building is safe and doesn’t have mold. But we have opened urgent-care services.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, health services were so devastated that many health care professionals were forced to leave to find work and did not return DeSalvo said.
“I think that the private sector after Katrina left a lot of the city, New Orleans East also,” she said. “I think there was a mistake on the part of private industry that there wasn’t a market out there for health care, but there clearly is. They’re getting health care services [in] other places, but they’re just having to leave their neighborhood to do it, which is a shame.”