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Hospital President In Louisiana Describes Hurricane Ida's Impact


And now to Louisiana, where many hospitals were nearing capacity before Hurricane Ida hit as the state battles its fourth wave of COVID. To talk with us about how hospitals are faring after being struck with a natural disaster on top of the pandemic, we're joined by Dr. John Heaton. He's the president and chief medical officer of LCMC Health.

Welcome back to the program.

JOHN HEATON: Thank you.

FADEL: Doctor, we understand you surveyed the damage at your hospital network earlier today. What did you find?

HEATON: Well, all in all, we fared fairly well. Unfortunately, we had a variety of leaks, some minor roof damage. In surveying the infrastructure around the - our hospitals, there was still quite a bit of street flooding, trees down, power lines down. So we're going to be a few days before we're back to normal operations.

FADEL: Do your hospitals have power?

HEATON: We do. We learned a long time ago to be well-prepared and self-sufficient living in Louisiana. And so we're - we had - our baseline is to have at least a week of self-sufficient generating capacity and the ability to supply our hospitals with water to resume operations. We have re-supply scheduled for everything from linens to diesel fuel because the power grid took quite a hit, as you may have heard.

FADEL: Yeah. So the hospitals are OK for at least a week?

HEATON: We are. We are. And it's an especially trying time, being fairly full throughout the pandemic, and particularly now. You know, I think that we're well-prepared, but we also have some great people working for us because it's the same crew that we brought in Sunday morning that is going to have to hold until relieved because a lot of other folks moved to less-impacted areas and are going to have to find their way back. And it's just a testament to how much we ask of our folks, to come in and, you know, two crews just alternate until they are relieved. It's just outstanding.

FADEL: Yeah. Let's talk about that. Many hospitals, like you said, were already slammed by this fourth wave of COVID. How is the hurricane affecting care?

HEATON: It's not. We're maintaining. What it's affecting is our ability to help out hospitals that are not able to just keep their acute care enterprise running because of such severe physical damage or are overflowing because of demand because of COVID patients. So that - if there's any big difference, it's, you know, when a small rural hospital 70 or 80 miles away needs to transfer some patients, we have no ICU capacity. And it's hard to say no.

FADEL: So at this point, your ICUs are full. Is that with COVID patients as well as people wounded during the hurricane?

HEATON: It's a mix. You know, thankfully, there hasn't been a lot of casualties from this hurricane. There has been some. There have been some injuries. But compared to others we've seen here, it's been blessedly small. But it's just mostly people that are ill, people that have COVID, people that have a few injuries from the hurricane.

FADEL: That's Dr. John Heaton, president and chief medical officer of LCMC Health.

Thank you, doctor, and our prayers are with you.

HEATON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
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