Stranded at the Hospital

On Tuesday night, Amy Goodman spoke with Loyola University law professor Bill Quigley, who is trapped in Memorial Medical Center on Napoleon Avenue in New Orleans Hospital with hundreds of other people. There is no food, water or electricity in the hospital and relief efforts have yet to reach them. He has been volunteering there since the hurricane hit, helping his wife, Debbie, an oncology nurse.

Democracy Now! tried throughout the day Wednesday to reach Bill Quigley and could not get through to him. A colleague who exchanged text messages with him told us that his last message, sent Wednesday evening, read: "No water, sick, no heat, call somebody for help." When his colleague called the Red Cross, they told her they could not help and that she should call the Coast Guard. She tried for several hours to reach the Coast Guard without success.

Bill Quigley: There are 1,300 people in this hospital, a couple hundred of whom are patients, hundreds of family members of the patients, hundreds of staff, and everything -- little babies, little children of staff members and [inaudible] who came in. The only way you get people to work in a hurricane in New Orleans is that you tell them you can come in and bring your whole family with you. So, people brought their children, and we had little babies, we've got parents. We got that sort of stuff. It's about 1,300 people here in this hospital.

At this point now, there's about five-plus feet of water outside the hospital, and they have lost power in the main stairwells. Power is reduced throughout the entire building. We don't have air conditioning, and the building is sealed, so you can't open to get -- you know, even a breeze, so it's pretty hot in here. On the upper floors, they don't have enough water pressure to be able to use the toilets and that. So we have areas that don't have electricity, areas that don't have any water pressure. And the water is rising, and shortly, when the water gets high enough, we will lose the electricity that we do have and the internal communication abilities that we have.

We're here on the oncology and bone marrow unit where my wife works. And I just came in as a volunteer to help out, and they have -- somebody had a transplant today, and they have people with various types of cancer, on chemotherapy, I.V. drips, blood, all of this other stuff, you know, that's very electrical intensive, and that -- and so people are very nervous. They see what's happened, you know, survived the hurricane with the incredible winds blowing, blew out some windows in the hospital.

They had to shut a couple of parts of the hospital up because of blown windows with that, but then this morning we really thought it was better, but then today the water started rising, and the electricity started going out, and we have been on apparently backup generators for more than a day for most of the hospital. And we don't have a lot of food. We don't have a lot of water. But they're evacuating some people right now, but they have been evacuating for about ten hours, and they have evacuated about a hundred people. So they have another 1,200 that are here. And we have water problems. We have got --

Amy Goodman: Bill, you talk about a premi baby that was born today and other infants. What's happening to them?

Bill Quigley: Well, you have a couple of different classes of infants. You have the infants of the staff members and family that are here in the hospital who are still here, had very tiny sick babies that were in the hospital that have been helicoptered out, but even when they're helicoptering out, they don't take the families with them.

So there was one woman who delivered a premi baby, and they put the baby in an incubator and they had to walk the baby up eight flights of stairs because the elevators don't work and put the baby onto a helicopter with some other babies that they helicoptered out, but they left the mother behind. You know, they don't have room for the mothers. All they had was a helicopter full of babies that they're helicoptering to Baton Rouge and then from there, they're not sure where they're going. There's not a real clear plan about what's happening.

They have people strapped to pallets and taped to a pallet. And what they're doing, because we don't have elevators is knocked a hole in the wall, and they're handing people on these pallets taped over -- holding them -- handing them through the wall, a hole in the wall, putting people into the back of a pickup truck, two people at a time, taped into this thing, put a nurse in the back of the pickup truck and then they drive up eight flights of the parking lot to the roof where some people then put a couple of them on the helicopters. And they're taking them off from there, but there's still -- I mean, there's still a lot of very sick people. We have some people that have to get to Houston to the M.D. Anderson place over there. And they're telling us at this point they don't even know how that would happen.

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