Medicine in the flood and coping
What do you do as a doctor or nurse in conditions like this? Many of the tools of modern medicine and surgery require electrical power. At the very least, light is needed, and in the sweltering summer weather of New Orleans (over 90 degrees, 90% humidity), air conditioning is about close to a necessity as you can get. Running water and toilet facilities are also needed, but not available.
I remember one time when I was on call as a resident one Saturday night. There was a rather nasty thunderstorm, and the power went out. Surprisingly, for some reason, the emergency backup generators didn't kick in right away, and the power remained out for around 20-30 minutes before the generators finally started up. Nurses and every available resident on call scrambled to the ICUs to manually bag patients on ventilators. Fortunately, most of the monitors had battery packs; so monitoring the patients wasn't a problem. Also fortunately, there were no respiratory or cardiac arrests to deal with. We also didn't have the lower levels of our hospital flooded or have to worry about looters, as at least one New Orleans hospital apparently did. My experience was nerve-wracking enough for me.
Now imagine trying to deal with such a situation in a blighted city for three days and counting while waiting seemingly endlessly for help to come to evacuate patients to inland medical facilities. Consider the difficulties involved in actually getting to these hospitals and transporting hundreds of patients. And donate to the hurricane relief charity of your choice. A place to look for charitable organizations involved is here.
Personally, I recommend Catholic Charities (I've had personal experience with their competence in providing services to my indigent patients) or the American Red Cross.
UPDATE: The New York Times has more on the desperate conditions in New Orleans hospitals, and GruntDoc is blogging about it as well.