The medical infrastructure in the six Mississippi counties hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina are slowly recovering, with about 60% of the region's 775 clinics and solo medical practices now fully operational and about 80% of the physicians back on the job, said James McIlwain, M.D., president and chief executive officer of the state's Medicare quality-improvement organization.
Almost 70 other clinics or medical practices are either partially operational or doing business from a temporary location, the agency reported, leaving 10 that will not rebuild. The status of another 160 or so is uncertain because the agency was unable to contact them.
McIlwain's agency, Information and Quality Healthcare, conducted a survey showing that 36% of primary-care clinics in the lower six counties of the state were either destroyed or closed in the wake of the hurricane. But the region has rebounded, and about eight in 10 doctors are now back on the job, he estimated. Meantime, all 14 hospitals in the region, including specialty facilities, have reopened. That includes three acute-care hospitals, including one, 104-bed Hancock Medical Center in Bay St. Louis, that was forced to close temporarily. It has since opened its emergency room, McIlwain said.
"Not many physicians have left," he said. "They've been pretty resilient -- in fact, the whole area has been resilient. A lot of physicians are in temporary locations. Some have found temporary offices, or are working closely with hospital medical staffs. Hospitals have provided temporary locations. The private sector has really rebounded."
As the clinics and medical offices reopen, McIlwain pointed out, the real problem in the immediate future is the lack of work for physicians, clinics and hospitals. Thousands have fled the area, and many others who remain are without jobs or insurance. "There aren't many patients," McIlwain said.