Sunday, August 26, 2007

Who's Really to Blame-Anna Pou's Story Revisited

Anna Pou has now told her harrowing story of the horrific conditions she and other health care workers struggled in after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. After a two year ordeal, Dr. Pou was vindicated when a Louisiana grand jury justifiably refused to indict her last month for murder, despite the efforts of grandstanding Attorney General Foti.

For an insight into the previously untold aspects of the story, Newsweek has a compelling recounting.

I am relieved that Dr. Pou, a fine physician, has been exonerated and can go forward with her life and care for her patients, to whom she has been devoted. She had been unfairly subjected for two years to, in her words, “the most effective form of torture—the uncertainty and the waiting and waiting and having everybody take a shot at you.”

Unfortunately, the attention focused on Dr. Pou’s story has distracted from the real issues—the colossal, criminally bungled mismanagement of pre-hurricane flood control, and the post-hurricane relief effort, the abandonment of the hurricane victims, and the pattern of responses of this administration to our country’s most poor, sick, and vulnerable citizens.

The growing gap between the rich and poor were recently highlighted by another story as well. In this case, according to the Kansas City Star, Criste Reimer was blind, had cancer and weighed 75 pounds. Her husband Stanly kissed her and dropped her off a balcony, to her death.

"Mr. Reimer was desperate because he could not pay the bills for his uninsured wife's treatment for neurological problems and uterine cancer. Her medical bills ranged from $700 to $800 per week.”

And this was without the cost of nursing homes or home health aides, which readily cost in the $4000-6000 per month range, and therefore are out of the reach of most of the population.

The heinous crime here was not that Mr. Reimer killed his wife; it is that he was driven to do so out of desperation because of the lack of universal health care. And now, ironically, that sum will be paid by taxpayers to cover his incarceration.

The chilling message sent from the persecution of Dr. Pou and her nurse colleagues is that health care workers should run as fast as they can from future disasters. I doubt that I would have Dr. Pou's courage and selflessness...

In both of these examples, it is perhaps our government that should be on trial for its abysmal failures in planning and response to disasters, both natural and of its own making.