Saturday, September 24, 2005

Port Townsend, WA relief bus in Mississippi

Volunteer relief workers Bill Dwier and Bill Dentzel of Port Townsend offer food and a ride to a shelter to a homeless woman in New Orleans. – Photo submitted by Kathleen Mitchell

Port Townsend relief workers aboard a bus fueled by biodiesel and vegetable oil have made their way to Waveland, Miss., where “it literally looked like Hiroshima,” according to workers recently returned from the area.

Bill Dentzel, who flew back with fellow volunteers Bill Dwier and Tara Dirth on Sunday night, said he saw “a deafening lack of presence of FEMA and the Red Cross” in the area. He said small, community-based organizations in the zone seemed to be providing more immediate relief in the way of food, water and clothing to the impoverished refugees there.

Last week the bus (Web Site) rescued several people from New Orleans, including one couple that had declined previous evacuation opportunities because they would have had to leave their pets behind, he said.

He said the city “was still horrible. Cars buried in water and sludge … devastation everywhere.” (more)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Doctor says FEMA ordered him to stop treating hurricane victims - Independent Media TV

In the midst of administering chest compressions to a dying woman several days after Hurricane Katrina struck, Dr. Mark N. Perlmutter was ordered to stop by a federal official because he wasn't registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"I begged him to let me continue," said Perlmutter, who left his home and practice as an orthopedic surgeon in Pennsylvania to come to Louisiana and volunteer to care for hurricane victims. "People were dying, and I was the only doctor on the tarmac (at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport) where scores of nonresponsive patients lay on stretchers. Two patients died in front of me.

"I showed him (the U.S. Coast Guard official in charge) my medical credentials. I had tried to get through to FEMA for 12 hours the day before and finally gave up. I asked him to let me stay until I was replaced by another doctor, but he refused. He said he was afraid of being sued. I informed him about the Good Samaritan laws and asked him if he was willing to let people die so the government wouldn't be sued, but he would not back down. I had to leave."

FEMA issued a formal response to Perlmutter's story, acknowledging that the agency does not use voluntary physicians.

"We have a cadre of physicians of our own," FEMA spokesman Kim Pease said Thursday. "They are the National Disaster Medical Team. ... The voluntary doctor was not a credentialed FEMA physician and, thus, was subject to law enforcement rules in a disaster area."

A Coast Guard spokesman said he was looking into the incident but was not able to confirm it.

Perlmutter, Dr. Clark Gerhart and medical student Alison Torrens flew into Baton Rouge on a private jet loaned by a Pennsylvania businessman several days after Katrina hit. They brought medicine and supplies with them. They stayed the first night in Baton Rouge and persuaded an Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot to fly them into New Orleans the next day.

"I was going to make it happen," the orthopedic surgeon said. "I was at Ground Zero too, and I had to lie to get in there."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Despite Some Protections Volunteers Face Risk of Liability and Litigation

News: "Eight years ago, the late Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.) sponsored and successfully worked to enact the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 - legislation that protects Volunteers from many frivolous lawsuits. However, as helpful and well-intentioned as this legislation was, more needs to be done to sufficiently protect all those lending a hand to those in need.

In response to Hurricane Katrina, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army have had difficulty coordinating efforts to set up emergency housing in private homes for evacuees, because of liability issues. - Quad City Times, September 20, 2005

A jury in Milwaukee found the Catholic Archdiocese liable because a volunteer for a Catholic lay organization, driving her own car, ran a red light and caused an accident while delivering a statue of the Virgin Mary to an invalid person. Although the church does not direct the activities of this group, the jury decided the Archdiocese should pay $17 million to the victim. - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 23, 2005 " News - International - Pentagon blocks soldier's evidence News - International - Pentagon blocks soldier's evidence: "THE Pentagon yesterday blocked the testimony of a military official before the committee investigating intelligence failings in the run-up to 11 September, amid claims that a covert American unit identified four hijackers more than a year before the World Trade Centre attack.

The Senate judiciary committee was scheduled to hear the testimony of Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer on the work of a classified military unit code-named 'Able Danger', which claims to have identified the hijackers, including the mastermind, Mohamed Atta, using data-mining techniques that can pick up on individuals who repeatedly appear in surveillance pictures.

Mark Zaid, who represents Lt-Col Shaffer, said that on three occasions Able Danger attempted to provide the FBI with information, but Pentagon attorneys stopped the moves because of legal concerns about military-run investigations operating on American soil. "

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Telegraph | News | 'I could have saved her life but was denied permission'

Telegraph News 'I could have saved her life but was denied permission': "Refugees from New Orleans died after private doctors were ordered to stop giving treatment because they were not covered by United States government medical liability insurance, according to two American surgeons.
Mark N Perlmutter, an orthapdic surgeon from Pennsylvania and founder of Healing Hearts, was told by a senior US Coast Guard officer representing the embattled Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) that he must leave the overstretched disaster relief hospital at New Orleans airport.

He had applied a chest compression after a female patient died and was turning to another critically ill woman at the triage reception area on the airport tarmac when he was summoned to see Capt Art French, the doctor in charge of the hospital.

'The other lady was in equally bad shape and I was not able to work on her. When I went back afterward to get my supplies they were taking her body to a store where the deceased were being placed.

'It's absolutely possible I would have saved her life but I was denied permission to try.' An estimated 20 to 30 patients died at the temporary hospital that day." (more)

Transcript Excerpt

Aaron BROWN: All right, let me just -- let me recap and move us forward. You get on the tarmac, and basically, the FEMA guy says, "you don't have the right paperwork." And people are sick and in some cases dying around you. You go talk to his boss and he confirms that and that's their concern is, what, they'd get sued?

PERLMUTTER: Exactly, my colleague who went with me, Dr. Clark Gerhardt, specially asked him why, because we were bewildered, there was no FEMA doctor there to replace us, FEMA registered doctor. He said, specifically, tort. They were afraid of the government being sued, because I'm protected by Good Samaritan laws.

BROWN: What sort of paperwork, I mean, assuming that, honestly, I'm a patient on the tarmac, I care that you have a medical license, not that you have something from FEMA, but that's me. What sort of paperwork was it that you needed? How long would that have taken?

PERLMUTTER: Well, we did eventually register that very day. It took two seconds to register.

BROWN: Is there any reason why they couldn't have had someone there on the spot just filling out the form? (more)