Healthier Than Ever
Ten years post-Katrina, metro healthcare has a whole new look.
The winds and water of Hurricane Katrina didn’t spare any portion of the New Orleans economy. The area’s health care sector took a beating, as hospitals and clinics were flooded and practitioners fled. But today, 10 years after the storm’s widespread destruction, the city’s health care picture is strong and getting stronger.
New Orleans East Hospital
One of the most visible signs of rebirth is the newly built New Orleans East Hospital, an 80-bed facility that opened a year ago at the site of the old Methodist Hospital. After the hurricane and Methodist’s destruction, people returning to eastern New Orleans had to look elsewhere for hospital care, says city Health Director Charlotte Parent.
In addition to bringing surgical and cardiac care, the hospital offers gastroenterology, neurology and rehabilitation services as well as diagnostic services for women. Parent is most proud of the fact that the new hospital has already been accredited by the Joint Commission, which evaluates hospitals for quality of care.
Conveniently located near a Daughters of Charity Health Center, Joe Brown Park, a new library and a police station, New Orleans East Hospital should serve as “a catalyst for job growth and economic stability,” Parent says. Since its July 2014 opening, the hospital has attracted a growing number of patients. With no hospital in the area for nine years, people formed relationships with providers in other parts of town, Parent points out. But she expects more and more residents to switch back to a community hospital as they get used to the ease and safety of having a one nearby.
LCMC Health manages New Orleans East Hospital for the city, which owns the property.
University Medical Center New Orleans
LCMC also manages the billion-dollar University Medical Center New Orleans, slated to open August 1. It will replace the Interim LSU Hospital (ILH), which itself sought to fill the void created when Hurricane Katrina flooded Charity Hospital. UMC New Orleans will be staffed with 2,000 employees and 600 physicians.
Dr. Peter DeBlieux, who served as interim chief medical officer of ILH, says people will immediately notice the new medical center’s emphasis on patient care and comfort.
“Every single bed will be a private bed, with the exception of 20 beds in the Behavioral Health Unit designed to be shared rooms,” he says. “Every patient care room has windows that face the outside.”
Photo courtesy of University Medical Center New Orleans
UMC New Orleans has a Level 1 Trauma Center that DeBlieux calls “a gem.” The hospital has all the services necessary to bring patients to an operating room within five minutes of their arrival at the Trauma Center. “This is life-altering,” he says. Many of the hospital’s doctors and other clinicians trained at Charity, which had a reputation for expert handling of trauma cases.
The new hospital will also be a regional hub for patients with pulmonary hypertension, which can lead to heart failure, DeBlieux says. Services that won’t be offered at the new hospital include obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics. LCMC offers these services at Touro and Children’s Hospital, respectively.
Recruiting health care practitioners to UMC has been easy. “Everybody is very excited to work in that new environment.”
Slidell Memorial Hospital
Slidell Memorial Hospital has also ramped up its services recently. In 2011, the hospital realized it was outgrowing its emergency room facilities. After much analysis, the hospital decided to adopt a radical new design that staff members believed would create a better experience for patients and practitioners alike, says Chief Operating Officer Bruce W. Clement. The hospital sent a team to Tampa, Fla., to look at the design.
Today, Slidell Memorial’s ER has as its central core an oblong space that holds all of its clinicians (doctors, nurses, techs, etc.) Surrounding this oblong are 31 patient rooms. Outside of the patient rooms is another corridor. “Patients enter from the outer door, and clinicians enter from the inner door,” Clement says. Surrounding the patient and family corridor are a series of reception areas, triage rooms and support services, including a CT scanner. The new addition includes a 38-bed cardiology unit as well.
The new system “has been incredibly successful for us,” Clement says. “We have seen an increase (in patients) of 17 percent in the first 12 months.” The hospital is on track to see 35,000 patients in the ER in 2015.
Another popular feature of the new ER is the staff’s use of radios to keep in constant contact with one another.
Clement expects ER patronage to climb as the baby boomers age and require more medical care. He also attributes growth to the hospital’s convenient location and the fact that it has the largest emergency department in St. Tammany Parish. “We’ve become a regional destination for emergency services,” he says.
The renovation project cost $30 million, paid for by a millage that residents voted to continue.
West Jefferson Medical Center
West Jefferson Medical Center never closed during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, so it was well positioned to meet the needs of West Bank residents as they returned to town. “We didn’t skip a beat,” says Angela Greener, chief strategic officer.
The medical center realized that there would be a big need for primary care, Greener says, so it expanded its primary care network, increased the number of primary care doctors in its clinics and beefed up the number of clinics it offered.
West Jefferson Medical Center has expanded its primary care
network and increased the number of emergency room beds over the past 10 years.
Photo courtesy of West Jefferson Medical Center
The hospital has also increased its number of emergency room beds and improved its outpatient services. Like many other medical centers, West Jeff has seen its number of inpatients decline and shift to outpatient services, Greener says, attributing some of the change to the Affordable Care Act. “We’ve adapted accordingly,” she says.
For example, West Jefferson’s congestive heart failure management program features a clinic especially designed to keep CHF patients out of the hospital and in their own homes.
A proposed lease transaction between West Jefferson Medical Center and LCMC Health is pending approval by the state’s attorney general. Greener expects the announcement to come soon.
Health Professionals Flee, Return
One drawback to reconstituting the city’s health care sector was the fact that a goodly number of medical professionals fled with their families as Hurricane Katrina loomed. Like so many residents, doctors, nurses and other practitioners found themselves stranded in a variety of cities and states, unsure whether they had an office or hospital back home in which to practice.
Dr. Daniel Bode, an audiologist and owner of Associated Hearing in Metairie and Covington, stayed in town during the hurricane and then evacuated to Baton Rouge, where he worked with the American Red Cross helping to process people who needed medical attention.
He returned to town in September 2005 and restarted his practice, making “field trips” to see patients around Louisiana who couldn’t come to New Orleans.
Today, Bode has rebuilt his practice, specializing in making sure the sophisticated technology in hearing aids is applied correctly to each patient’s individual needs.
Dr. Daniel Bode, owner of Associated Hearing, works
in the lab with sophisticated hearing technology.
Photo courtesy of Associated Hearing
“The patient care has to precede the technology,” he says. The audiologist needs to find out what situations the patient is coping with — such as the inability to hear grandchildren, follow TV programs, or talk in restaurants — and then match that handicap with the appropriate technology.
Of course, not all hearing deficits can be corrected 100 percent, Bode says. But if the audiologist works closely with the patient, usually some improvement happens. “If you can’t run 100 miles, let’s get you to run two, or three,” he explains.
People with hearing issues often become depressed. That can result in stress, which in turn can lead to heart involvement. Getting help can alleviate that stress and depression, Bode says, resulting in an overall improvement in a patient’s health.
Skin Body Health Anti-Aging Institute
Hurricane Katrina also interrupted Dr. Kelly Burkenstock’s thriving Metairie practice. She moved her practice to Mandeville, where she opened her Skin Body Health Anti-Aging Institute. Gradually, patients who had left the area after the hurricane began coming back, so Burkenstock reopened a smaller practice in Metairie.
Burkenstock says she’s always been interested in pioneering anti-aging techniques and often studies abroad to learn about the latest advancements. She offers therapies such as platelet rich plasma therapy, which tightens the skin, and radiofrequency laser therapy, which results in “an overall re-plumping of the skin as well as skin tightening.”
She also treats women whose breast implants have hardened and shifted, leading to an asymmetrical appearance. She offers a nonsurgical technique to correct the problem.
Because weight loss can be such a challenge, Burkenstock has a five-part DNA weight loss plan that uses results to determine whether the type of weight-loss program a patient has been following is effective. Everything from your blood sugar to your thyroid gland operation to your hormones and vitamin and mineral deficiencies influences your ability to lose weight, Burkenstock says.
Her tests can also determine whether you will fare better with aerobic exercise or lower, slower endurance exercise, or a combination of both. Knowing her patients’ strengths and deficiencies, Burkenstock says, can help them avoid the frustrating yo-yo pattern of losing and gaining that turns so many dieters off.