THE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL 3: THE NURSES

 Mon, 24 Jul 2006 16:07:49

There was wall to wall coverage in Sunday’s Picayune of the Memorial Hospital story. There was an excellent front pager by Jeffrey Meitrodt about the nurses: Cheri Landry and Lori Budo. Given the difficulties of staying on the job during a hurricane it’s no surprise that both Landry and Budo are experienced and highly competent professionals. There are several testimonials to them by colleagues and former patients such as this: “Every Thanksgiving Cheri Landry gets a card from Marian Busse who can never get through the holiday season without remembering the nurse who helped save her son’s life in 1990.

“At Thanksgiving our family is always together and I am always thankful that we are six people and not five people ” said Busse whose son Laurence was given a 3 percent chance of surviving the burns that covered his body after a fiery car accident on St. Charles Avenue. “Without her I am not sure we could have survived as a family. I know my son would not have survived had she not paid such good attention to him.”

The money quotes in the article deal with the issue of the alleged “toxic cocktail” that was brewed by the Memorial Hospital 3:

“Although Foti supported his allegations by pointing out that neither drug had been part of the care plan for any of the four patients Dr. Morrison Bethea said such plans can’t possibly contemplate the evolving medical needs of patients who survived Katrina and were trapped in hospitals without power or water amid temperatures that soared into triple digits.

“Morphine and Versed are given to sedate relax and control patients all the time ” said Bethea who headed the surgical group that performs most of the heart surgeries at Memorial and four other local hospitals until he retired last year.

“The treatment and care of patients is not set in stone ” Bethea said. “It changes as the circumstances change. A patient that might not require sedation or something to relieve anxiety when the room is 68 degrees and there is plenty of food and water is one situation. A patient in a hospital room that is over 100 degrees who is markedly dehydrated and is aware of this horrific situation is going through levels of anxiety and mental anguish that are not usually there. It doesn’t take a physician to realize that.”

Well said Dr. Bethea. Dr. Bethea’s quote contradicts Foti’s preposterous claim that the mixture of these drugs is fatal. This is what happens when bumbling Orleans Parish coroner Frank Minyard is one of your experts. Dr. Minyard is a nice man but he’s an Obstetrician not a pathologist. This is what you get when you elect people to specialized positions.

It’s also interesting to me that it’s 3 women who have been targeted by Foti. You can’t have a witch hunt without witches after all. Foti’s comments about the so-called “toxic cocktail” conjure up images of cackling witches gathered in front of a boiling cauldron. Let’s call it Macbeth on the Bayou. The people whose votes Foti is trying to nail down with his witch hunt conservative Catholics and Evangelicals don’t like “uppity” women. I happen to love “uppity” women: I’m married to one.

Speaking of the politcal impact of Foti’s folly here’s how the AG’s people are spinning the story:  “As a statewide elected official Foti now faces the inevitable skepticism about his political motivations and handling of a high-profile case. His office maintains that it has strong evidence has followed the right procedures and has gone out of its way to avoid exposing the accused to unnecessary media attention.

Given the compelling facts uncovered by the attorney general’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Foti would have been accused of corruption and favoritism on a grand scale had he not proceeded to make the arrests said Foti’s spokeswoman Kris Wartelle. His critics would have been legion she said. “They would have been screaming politics all over the place ” Wartelle said.”

The case is in fact based on suspect medical evidence and statements from some witnesses with an ax to grind (more on the latter in a moment.) It’s typical Louisiana politics: Democrats know that liberals have nowhere else to go so they pander to conservatives in order to stay in office. I’m realistic so in many instances I accept this BUT not when something this important is at stake. From all that I’ve heard Anna Pou Cheri Landry and Lori Budo are heroes not criminals. But their reputations will be severely damaged by these allegations: there was a story in the paper about Richard Jewell who was suspected of the 1996 Olympics bombing and was later cleared of the charges. BUT even though wingnut wackjob Eric Rudolph was convicted of the crime Jewell’s reputation was permanently damaged: people remember the first thing they hear not the retraction. That’s why the Swift Boat story was so insidiously effective.

Finally the question that arose in my mind while reading the article about Landry and Budo was: where the hell were the LifeCare docs and nurses? The Memorial 3 were voluntarily dealing with the acutely ill LifeCare patients because their caretakers did not stay. “Typically the unit took care of patients who needed ventilators to breathe or had other life-threatening conditions that couldn’t be handled in a nursing home Bethea said. Some patients evacuated from a Chalmette hospital operated by LifeCare may have also been on LifeCare’s acute care floor at Memorial in Katrina’s aftermath.

“I occasionally saw patients on LifeCare and every patient I saw was terminal ” Bethea said. “They might not be going to die that day or that week but it was my perception that very few patients on LifeCare ever left the hospital alive.”

Based on Foti’s affidavit much of the case against Pou and the two nurses is built on statements provided by four LifeCare administrators.

I put the last sentence in bold face because I suspect that the allegations against the Memorial 3 by LifeCare and its paper pushers were made to cover their asses and avoid both criminal and civil responsibility. Can I prove this? No but it’s human nature to CYA. Instead ot evacuating its  patients LifeCare left them in a hospital in a notoriously flood prone part of the city. The corner of Napoleon and Claiborne *always* floods when there’s too much rain; everyone Uptown knows that. I think that the families of the LifeCare patients who died post-K should focus their ire on the company that failed to evacuate their relatives. They should sue them into submission. 

Finally here’s a thought provoking quote from one of the Memorial 3’s colleagues that closes the Picayune story:

“Considering the legal price Budo and Landry may pay for reporting to duty on the Sunday before Katrina struck their co-workers question whether such dedication can be expected the next time a hurricane threatens the city.

“These are people who have dedicated their whole lives to nursing and because they were there — giving of their time — this is how the state thanks them for their efforts ” Casey said. “I wonder how the city will overcome the next natural disaster. There will be no professional people who want to stay here.”

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