Saturday 15th October 2005
Hurricane Katrina exposed some ugly truths about the world`s most wealthy and powerful nation: while trumpeting its defence of democracy and human rights in Iraq, the United States abandoned its poorest ` and mainly black ` citizens in the path of Hurricane Katrina. One bright spot amidst the devastation is the compassion displayed by US nurses who are volunteering to go to the aid of survivors.
Volunteer nurses enter Katrina’s wasteland
Thousands of nurses from all corners of the USA have volunteered to go to evacuation centres and cities laid waste by Hurricane Katrina.
The California Nurses Association alone had sent 170 nurses to Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas when The Lamp went to press. Almost 1,000 Californian nurses were ready to follow them, the Association said.
With a high death toll, the US Department of Health described the health care needs as ‘extremely critical’.
The department said it would pay travel and daily expenses for volunteer nurses and cover them for workers’ compensation. They are being asked to go for periods of between 14 and 30 days.
Volunteers are needed to treat many of the hundreds of thousands of exhausted, hungry and sick refugees crowded into makeshift evacuation centres including sports stadiums and disused factories.
Volunteers going to flooded areas such as New Orleans are entering a dangerous environment with a high risk of disease. Trapped floodwaters have created a toxic wasteland contaminated with sewage, industrial compounds and household chemicals.
‘We are gravely concerned about the potential for cholera, typhoid and dehydrating diseases that could come as a result of the stagnant water and the conditions,’ said Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt.
Officials also predicted mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus and dengue fever, and cited carbon monoxide poisoning risks to people using generators and fuel stoves in the absence of electricity.
Without an effective evacuation plan, scores of hospital patients and nursing home residents died in New Orleans from thirst, hunger and lack of medical care.
Hospitals in New Orelans had to airlift babies without their parents to other states. Many were hooked up to battery-operated breathing machines to keep them alive.
NSWNA lends a helping hand
The NSWNA has donated $2,000 to the Louisiana State Nurses Association to assist their relief campaign in New Orleans.
Members can make donations to the Louisiana State Nurses Association by sending a cheque to:
Louisiana State Nurses
Association Relief Fund
Louisiana State Nurses Association
5800 One Perkins Place
Suite 2-B, Baton Rouge
LA 70808 USA.