Thursday, September 11, 2008
Someone I know personally who worked exhausting hours in a Gustav shelter has expressed her frustrations in a letter to the media.
Her essay is on the brink of going viral. I know we all get e-mails from people vouching for the veracity of fantastic claims therein.
I am well acquainted with the author of this letter. I can also tell you that, based on my experiences in the shelters following Katrina and Gustav, I believe every word of it.
There were problems in some of the shelters. No one denies that. Most of the people in them were good, decent and honorable.
This letter, I can assure you, is an accurate representation of an alarming percentage of the people for whom volunteer care was provided:
I am a nurse who has just completed working approximately 120 hours as the clinic director in a Hurricane Gustav evacuation shelter in Shreveport, Louisiana over the last 7 days. I would love to see someone look at the evacuee situation from a new perspective. Local and national news channels have covered the evacuation and "horrible" conditions the evacuees had to endure during Hurricane Gustav.
True - some things were not optimal for the evacuation and the shelters need some modification. At any point, does anyone address the responsibility (or irresponsibility) of the evacuees? Does it seem wrong that one would remember their cell phone, charger,cigarettes and lighter but forget their child's insulin?
Is something amiss when an evacuee gets off the bus, walks immediately to the medical area, and requests immediate free refills on all medicines for which they cannot provide a prescription or current bottle (most of which are narcotics)?
Isn't the system flawed when an evacuee says they cannot afford a $3 co pay for a refill that will be delivered to them in the shelter yet they can take a city-provided bus to Wal-mart, buy 5 bottles of Vodka, and return to consume them secretly in the shelter?
Is it fair to stop performing luggage checks on incoming evacuees so as not to delay the registration process but endanger the volunteer staff and other persons with the very realistic truth of drugs, alcohol and weapons being brought into the shelter?
Am I less than compassionate when it frustrates me to scrub emesis (clinical word for vomit - DR) from the floor near a nauseated child while his mother lies nearby, watching me work 26 hours straight, not even raising her head from the pillow to comfort her
Why does it insense me to hear a man say "I ain't goin' home 'til I get my FEMA check" when I would love to just go home and see my daughters who I have only seen 3 times this week?
Is the system flawed when the privately insured patient must find a way to get to the pharmacy, fill his prescription and pay his copay while the FEMA declaration allows the uninsured person to acquire free medications under the disaster rules?
Does it seem odd that the nurse volunteering at the shelter is paying for childcare while the evacuee sits on a cot during the day as the shelter provides a "day care"?
Have government entitlements created this mentality and am I facilitating it with my work? Will I be a bad person, merciless nurse or poor Christian if I hesitate to work at the next shelter because I have worked for 7 days being called every curse word imaginable, felt threatened and feared for my personal safety in the shelter?
Exhausted and battered but hopefully pithy,
Sherri Hagerhjelm, RN Sphere: Related Content