The Longform Guide to Hospitals

Longform.org's guide to the greatest long articles ever written.
Aug. 3 2013 7:15 AM

From the Maternity Ward to the Autopsy Room

The Longform guide to hospitals.

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A sign is seen in front of Memorial Hospital in September 2005 in New Orleans, where 45 patients were found dead after Hurricane Katrina evacuation efforts were thwarted and temperatures inside the hospital reached 106 degrees.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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The Deadly Choices at Memorial
Sheri Fink • New York Times • August 2009

After Katrina’s floodwaters knocked out power and marooned New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center, evacuating all the hospital’s patients seemed impossible. Following the controversial choices of the medical staff who tried to “do the greatest good” with no triage procedures in place.

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“Gremillion’s supervisor and friend, a LifeCare nursing director, Gina Isbell, told me she walked into the room around 11 a.m. and saw Gremillion crying and shaking his head. He brushed past her into the hallway, and Isbell followed, grabbing his arm and guiding him to an empty room. ‘I can’t do this,’ he kept saying.

“‘Do what?’ Isbell asked. When Gremillion wouldn’t answer, Isbell tried to comfort him. ‘It’s going to be O.K.,’ she said. ‘Everything’s going to be all right.’

“Isbell searched for Robichaux, her boss. ‘What is going on?’ she asked, frantic. ‘Are they going to do something to our patients?’

“‘Yes, they are,’ Isbell remembers Robichaux, in tears, saying. ‘Our patients aren’t going to be evacuated. They aren’t going to leave.’ As the LifeCare administrators cleared the floor of all but a few senior staff members, Robichaux sent Isbell to the back staircase to make sure nobody re-entered. It was quiet there, and Isbell sat alone, drained and upset. Isbell said she thought about her patients, remembering with guilt a promise she made to the daughter of one of her favorites, Alice Hutzler, a 90-year-old woman who came to LifeCare for treatment of bedsores and pneumonia. Isbell fondly called her Miss Alice and had told Hutzler’s daughter that she would take good care of her mother. Now Isbell prayed that help would come before Hutzler and her other patients died.

“According to statements made to investigators by Steven Harris, the LifeCare pharmacist, Pou brought numerous vials of morphine to the seventh floor.”

What Went Wrong?
Neil Swidey • Boston Globe • March 2004

On David Arndt, a prominent Boston surgeon famous for leaving a patient in the operating room while he went to cash a paycheck.