After spending days on roofs, in attics and in filthy conditions across New Orleans waiting for help, many Hurricane Katrina evacuees are arriving in Houston with an array of medical needs. Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals have created a pair of full-service health clinics in two of the city’s largest shelters.
With doctors and nurses rushing all around and patients sitting in make-shift waiting rooms, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston CEO Dr. Mike McKinney has his hands full. He’s standing in the middle of the city’s newest health clinic, set-up inside the George R. Brown Convention Center. Rooms are created with pink sheets. Handwritten signs designate different departments, like trauma and pediatrics.
Those doctors and nurses have volunteered their time at this clinic and expect to be busy over the next week or so, treating patients from anything from skin infections to untreated existing conditions, like diabetes. Dr. Jeffrey Katz is a professor of anesthesiology at the UT Health Science Center.
Registered nurse Carlene Johnson has just given an evacuee a tetanus shot. He’s one of hundreds who will need care as they arrive in Houston. She says it’s the city’s way of being a good neighbor in a time of need.
Many of Katrina’s victims were children who were separated from their parents or endured horrible scenes of desperation. Dr. Andrew Harper is the Medical Director for the UT-Harris County Psychiatric Center and says many of the patients here will be kids.
With a bare cement floor and folding chairs, the clinic operates like a well-oiled machine. A similar and even larger clinic is also operating at the Astrodome. Both clinics will operate around the clock, likely for the next several weeks.