Local News

Duke Doctors Settle Into Makeshift Hospital In Gulf Coast

Posted September 8, 2005 11:36 a.m. EDT

— Doctors from Duke Medicine have visited makeshift hospitals and patients in Gulfport, Miss., to evaluate medical needs in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And, the doctors said the region was devastated.

"The area immediately adjacent to the water looks like a nuclear devastation zone," said doctor Peter Kussin, one of 21 medical personnel from Duke Medicine who is staffing a hospital set up by the National Institutes of Health at the Key Air Field, a National Guard base in Meridian, Miss. More Duke personnel are on stand-by to fill in if needed.

Kussin is no stranger to disaster missions; he worked twice in Indonesia after the tsunami struck last year.

He said Katrina's wrath was similar.

"It was not quite as bad as Indonesia," Kussin said, "but it was at the same order of magnitude."

The doctors said conditions in the flooded areas were unhealthy, especially for people with chronic medical problems such as diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease.

Without treatment and medication, the doctors said, many people in the hurricane-ravaged region would die.

"There was a smell of rotting food and supplies that overwhelmed you when you got out of the car," said Dr. David Schwartz, the director of the Research Triangle Park office of the National Institutes of Health. "That can't be healthy. I'm sure it's not healthy."

The doctors added that they were glad to be able to use their skills to do something to help the hurricane victims.

"I'm very fortunate to be the lucky one to be able to come down here and help," Kussin said.