Jan 01, 2010

Struggling to Treat the Poor in New Orleans

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By Tara Haelle

Charity health care in New Orleans used to mean Charity Hospital. The hospital, allied with Louisiana State University’s medical school, offered academic medicine in more than 600 beds to the poorest of the poor in New Orleans in a 1931 building just off Canal Street in the Hospital District. But that was before August 29, 2005.

Before Katrina there were 53,000 hospital beds in the New Orleans area; by the spring of 2006, according to emergency management coordinators, there were 15,000. Acute care—emergency medicine—dwindled from 5,063 before the storm to about 1,750 after.

The need for medical and mental health care has not gone down. Community clinics have risen across the city to pick up some of the slack. “Health care delayed is health care denied,” said Alice Craft-Kerney, executive director of the Lower Ninth Ward Health Clinic.

Photojournalist Tara Haelle shows how health care workers have fought to stabilize care in a city where only one person in 10 has health insurance, and what hurdles still remain.