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Authors Review Astrodome Medical Response to Hurricane Katrina

The experience of setting up the "Katrina Clinic" at the Astrodome/Reliant Center Complex in Houston provides important lessons to cities planning a medical response to disasters //and other large-scale emergencies, reports a paper in the September issue of the Southern Medical Journal (SMJ), official journal of the Southern Medical Association.

Dr. Thomas F. Gavagan of Baylor College of Medicine and colleagues relate and evaluate their experience in providing medical care for thousands of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Neil J. Nusbaum of University of Illinois College of Medicine, Rockford, calls for a "fundamentally different approach" to disaster planning, including conversion of disused military bases into fixed evacuation sites.

For several reasons, the situation in Houston was "logistically and politically" conducive to receiving and treating large numbers of evacuees. Most importantly, the area was not affected by Hurricane Katrina, leaving its extensive health care system intact and ready to respond. A wide range of academic, governmental, and private organizations came together to make and implement plans for the Katrina Clinic. A key first step was the creation of a unified command and control system to direct and coordinate services—a public health infrastructure equivalent to that of a small town was created almost literally overnight.

The Clinic was built in a 100,000-square-foot space in the Reliant Arena. Within 12 hours—aided by the use of existing exhibit hall materials— workers had created a facility including 65 examination rooms. Over the next 2 weeks, the Katrina Clinic saw more than 11,000 of the estimated 27,000 evacuees seeking shelter in the Complex. Clinic staff wrote nearly 17,000 prescriptions, performed nearly 600 x-rays and other radiologic studies, and gave more than 6,000 vaccinations.

Common problems observed at the Katrina Clinic included uncontroll
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