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September 13, 2005

News to brighten your day

Posted by Thad

45 found dead in flooded hospital (see also the NYT on this.)

Much wider damage to levees is disclosed

Children found locked in cages in rural Ohio

Ten more police officers injured as loyalists' bombs rain down

- Thad


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I've written before on Bush's responsibility in the Katrina/NOLA debacle, but the top item on this list about the 45 patients in the hospital that drowned is where I lay responsibility on the state and local government.

If you walk into any nursing home in my home state of NJ you'll see clearly posted in every area instruction on what the staff should do in the event of fire or a natural disaster.

It begins with "move patients out of danger to the designated safe area" and designates a check list of phone calls and actions to be taken.

In the case of NOLA and say the one hospital with 45 pateints who drowned in their beds, or any of the eleven nursing homes that were flooded in NO, where was the emergency plan, what happened to the staff, what communication took place.

The city and the state knew that these people were the most at risk and we don't know for sure what was in place and what worked and what didn't. But there sure better be a full accounting of what went on in those facilities and who is responsible.

Every report that was written by the LSU Hurricane center and FEMA and the Red Cross from 2001 on specifically talks about the elderly, the disabled, and the hospitals.

Actually it was a very good day in two respects...

1. Bush says he takes responsibility for the Federal Governements delay. Okay its another ploy ansd we'll hear the "bad apple" argument about Brownie, but it is a start.

2. The owners of the St. Rita's nursing home where they found the twenty four people drowned in their beds have been arrested and charged with twenty-four counts of criminal neglect. Its a start!

It will be interesting to see how many right-wingers continue their attempt to absolve Bush of all blame, now that he has said that he takes "full responsibility" for the failures at the federal level (doesn't that mean he should resign?).

My guess is that they will lie low for a few days, then go back to highlighting failures on the state level. They'll eventually try to make Brown the fall guy, but I think that those of us who are interested in accountability can effectively counter that, since Bush has now admitted to failure on a colossal level. In their hearts, though, the people who invested their credibility with Bush will still believe that he is blameless. I have to think, though, that the Bush Cult has been weakened by the admission of failure. I mean, wasn't he praying hard enough? Doesn't he intuitively know what to do in a crisis? Isn't he a MAN OF ACTION?

As for Blanco, I don't think that there is a credible defense for her. While she didn't have the resources to deal with the disaster, the fact is she didn't make good use of the resources she had. And the failure of nursing homes and hospitals to follow procedures indicates that state oversight of medical services was as poorly managed as state emergency planning.

I'd reserve judgement on the "Children in cages" story. From the very sketchy information provided, it looks like there are no other signs of abuse. It may be that the cages are the only readily visible sign of monstrous abuse and there is more to it. But if that is not so, these children are almost certainly getting better treatment than they would in a state institution.

It may be that they would do better in another foster home. It is almost certaintly true that there is no other foster home for them. From what I've heard from the social workers I've met, when a family has many foster children, it is because a social worker has begged their best foster parents to take "just one more" several times. The begging is most earnest when a child with special needs is involved.

Some of these children are mentally handicapped. In most state institutions, they would be neglected and sexually abused with essentially no advocacy to speak for them. These foster parents have at least sought the assistance of psychiatric help.

I have two autistic children. Each went through a very long period where they had to sleep in a room locked from the outside. I don't find it difficult to believe that there are some autistic children who would need to be further confined for their own safety. A cage, if well designed, is preferable to sleep restraints which thousands of Americans sleep in every night. There is an emotional response that a cage produces that the more cruel straps just do not evoke. While these parents may have done wrong, they should not be punished for our emotional prejudice.

That being said, I doubt that cages were appropriate for all these children. At best, they were appropriate for a small number, and, most likely the parents saw them as a solution for other difficulties for which they were not appropriate. Such expediency is not acceptable. However, it is not as bad as the expediency of a state assigning a couple a foster child when they already have 10.


"As for Blanco, I don't think that there is a credible defense for her. While she didn't have the resources to deal with the disaster, the fact is she didn't make good use of the resources she had. And the failure of nursing homes and hospitals to follow procedures indicates that state oversight of medical services was as poorly managed as state emergency planning."

I don't know about this one:

1. She did act properly on the request for Federal Assistance and in a timely manner. The delay was on the Federal side and just as the administration "leaked" a memo about Brown, they did the same with Chertoff yesterday showing that he delayed the response by 36 hours after the storm and then dumped the responsibility on Brown.

2. She could have called up the whole National Guard of her state, which was about 7000 troops and their various assets. Instead she only called up 400 for use in the Superdome and that was insufficient.

The Mayor said that both of them were operating on the assumption that FEMA was telling them the truth that help was on the way and the Superdome was only supposed to be an evacuation center.

Doers it let her off of the hook? Possibly, but not definitely. She could have been anticipating those troops would be called up in the Federal response and not wanted to interfere or give conflicting orders.

As legal experts have pointed out once she requested assistance from the Federal government and Bush declared a state of emergency... that Federalized the response.

I'm sure that we'll hear more on this and what went on.

3. As to regulation of nursing homes... I've had far too much experience with them to say that any state properly regulates them and enforcement sucks big time.

Before 9/11, the biggest scandals that were breaking were 600,000 children in the US were in the sex business and an epidemic of elder abuse in nursing home nationwide. The events of 9/11 eclipsed both of those stories and nothing was ever done.

The home where the owners have been charged with 34 counts of criminal negligence, St Rita's, had an evacuation plan, a contract with an ambulance service for transport, and they were notified by city officials to evacuate. Although they claim that they didn't know that the order was mandatory.

All of that implies that there was a state requirement and local coordination with authorities. I'm really unconvinced that any state, if they had a disaster would fair much better.

Truth is no body really gives a shit about the elderly in this country. I'm doing elder care and what I have seen is that they aren't treated like human beings after a while, only problems to be "handled."

Foster children get the same kind of treatment and to the facilities that "care" for them it is a simple formula X #of bodies = Y #of federal and state dollars. This applies to the elderly, foster children, and mental insitutions.

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