How Hurricane Katrina impacted healthcare in New Orleans and what that may mean for Houston: 5 takeaways

Alyssa Rege -

 

One of the biggest challenges facing Houston and other Texas cities post-Hurricane Harvey will be rebuilding their medical and healthcare infrastructure, Vox reports.

While the total cost of damage may not be calculated for some time, lawmakers and researchers may look to previous data gathered after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005. Kaiser Family Foundation researchers examined how New Orleans' healthcare infrastructure fared one year after Hurricane Katrina in a report published in the September 2006 issue of Health Affairs.

Here are five takeaways from the report.

1. Before the hurricane, New Orleans maintained 4,083 hospital beds among its various healthcare facilities. One year later, the city maintained 1,971 beds.

2. Nearly 4,500 physicians were forced to relocate, with only 1,200 physicians returning in the year following the storm.

3. The number of nursing home facilities fell from 51 facilities before Hurricane Katrina to 29 facilities after.

4. Researchers discovered some New Orleans-based health systems lost access to federal funding because patient volumes shrank following the storm.

5. KFF researchers also examined the hurricane's effects 10 years after the natural disaster and found that 85 percent of individuals in 2006 said they worried healthcare services wouldn't be available to them. In 2015, the number dropped to 54 percent.

"The aftermath of Katrina devastated the New Orleans healthcare safety net, entirely changing the city's healthcare landscape and leaving many without access to care a year after the storm," researchers wrote. "The [2005] storm … exposed problems that had existed for years and made solutions more complex and difficult to obtain."

To view the report published in Health Affairs, click here.

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