Bogalusa Medical Center

Damage from Hurricane Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina hammered Bogalusa long before it tore through town. By dawn, Bogalusa Medical Center (BMC) had lost power. That afternoon, as the Category 3 storm howled all around BMC, rain poured into all three floors and the basement. The wind was so fierce it ripped bricks off the building and air conditioners from third floor rooms.

Early on, staff moved their patients into the hallways for protection. Throughout that long day, the staff calmed and cared for them and kept a watchful eye on the havoc unreeling around them. By evening, the wind dwindled, ending one ordeal, but another was beginning.

As the storm approached, senior staff, who, by fortunate coincidence, the week before had received training from the Office of Homeland Security in healthcare incident management during catastrophes, diligently implemented predisaster preparation, including closing clinics and canceling elective surgeries.

BMC employees pitched in to unload much-needed emergency supplies after Katrina.

Once the storm passed, staff assessed damage and began mitigating losses. Housekeeping and facility services staff extracted water from the hospital while, in cruel irony, the failure of the city water system would leave BMC without running water for days. The temperature in BMC, which would be without power for six days, soon climbed beyond 100 degrees.

Everything was in short supply except the dedication of BMC staff and their determination to provide healthcare despite calamitous circumstances. BMC inpatient and emergency services remained open. Two LSU medical students who couldn’t get to New Orleans assisted the three BMC emergency-room physicians, who treated a steady stream of patients.

Working with Washington Parish officials, BMC became the only drug store in the parish and provided more than 7,000 refill prescriptive medications in the five days after the storm and medicine and supplies to volunteer medical teams traveling to the rural areas of the parish. BMC staff also cared for more than 140 New Orleans nursing home residents in the Varnado High School Gymnasium.

BMC suffered extensive damage from rain pouring into all three floors and the basement.

Without communication, cut off from outside assistance by fallen trees and downed power lines, BMC experienced severe shortages of food, water, fuel, linens, medical supplies, all that a hospital needs to function, yet staff performed heroically though many suffered the same fate of those all around: severely damaged or destroyed homes, families scattered everywhere.


In their own words, LSU Hospitals staff describe events in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
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