Hurricane Katrina took a huge toll on New Orleans, especially on that city’s poor. Among the institutions lost was Charity Hospital, which had served the poor of the city for centuries and which many people have fond memories of. However, it seems like a lot of the memories, as well as the pain of losing Charity Hospital, may have been inflated by centuries of the hospital’s prescience. In many ways, poorer patients living in post-Katrina New Orleans are better off than they were in the days of Charity Hospital.
That’s because the hurricane brought in millions of state and federal grants as well as private donations. That money was used, among other things, to build newer and more plentiful medical facilities. Where before, residents without medical insurance might have had to wait months to be seen if they weren’t suffering from acute problems, now people can get in quickly, often on the same day that they call to make an appointment.
Before the hurricane, Charity Hospital was pretty much the only game in town, and that meant that everyone had to wait for them. Now that there is a whole network of low-cost medical providers, people who would otherwise have to wait to have their problems treated–if they ever were treated–can get the help they need when they need it.
Well, mostly. There are still a lot of concerns about medical care in the city. According to a poll by NPR and the Kaiser Family Foundation, 72% of residents agree that medical care in the city is better now than before the hurricane, but 64% think that there are still needs waiting to be met.
Mental health is one example. Most psychiatrists fled the city during the hurricane and didn’t bother to come back. Now there are only a small handful of psychiatrists who are willing to work with underinsured people or those on Medicaid or Medicare. New Orleans’s poor might be better off, but there’s still a ways to go.