I am writing about events that occurred at Louisiana State University Health Science Center (LSUHSC) University Hospital, New Orleans, when the Code Gray was issued for Hurricane Katrina (see ONI October 2005, page 1, and January 2006, page 38).
Code Gray policies exist at several bureaucratic levels, with Chancellors Memo 51 (CM-51) being the highest policy level. CM-51 states that all LSUHSC personnel, except "approved and emergency personnel," must evacuate LSUHSC when emergency status is declared. Having participated in prior hurricane coverages and debriefings by my department, I performed in a manner consistent with past experience and current policy.
Conversations with Dr. Vincent Cataldo, chief resident for the medical service at University Hospital; Drs. Gabriela and Oscar Ballester, fellow and attending with the Hem/Onc service; and the Hospital Administrative office the morning prior to the hurricane served to clarify procedures in place. The final conversation I had was with Dr. Oscar Ball-ester who said he would be staying at the Hospital with his wife Gabriela, who would be caring for LSU's four hem/onc patients. Redundancy of personnel in a time of rationed resources thus became a concern.
At no time was I ever contacted by the institution, as the CM-51 memo states, or issued a wristband for "approved and essential personnel." It is critical to understand that "on call" is not the same as "approved and essential personnel." The wristbands distinguish the essential personnel from those seeking shelter.
If there are any misunderstandings of the interpretation of CM-51 on my part, I certainly apologize.
Lowell Anthony, MD
Professor of Medicine
LSU Health Science Center
New Orleans, Louisiana