Hurricane Katrina Relief Mission

The human suffering caused by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina touched the entire nation. Like so many other hospitals and physicians, Scripps was moved to help.

Driven by the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Scripps has dedicated significant resources to make our hospitals more prepared for all types of disasters. We have established an office of disaster preparedness, which reports to Scripps Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brent Eastman.

Scripps called for duty

Scripps has been privileged to establish a strong relationship with U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona. Immediately after Katrina hit, Dr. Eastman contacted Dr. Carmona and offered Scripps’ support. After a series of discussions with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Dr. Carmona about how we might be of assistance, HHS made a formal request to send a medical unit. We promptly accepted.

Scripps was asked to relieve an exhausted physician and nurse team from the University of Texas Medical Center (UT) by staffing a temporary clinic UT had established for Hurricane Katrina victims in the Houston convention center. More than 200 physicians and employees volunteered for the response team in the first 24 hours.

Hundreds served

By the end of our two-week assignment we had received more than 400 applications. On Sept. 12, 2005, Scripps deployed a 37-member medical response team to Houston for a two-week assignment. Another 21 professionals were sent on Sept. 18, 2005 to replace some members of first team.

The team treated on average 500 patients a day while the clinic was in operation. As the mission evolved, Scripps began dispatching small teams of medical professionals to community clinics and FEMA relief centers treating hundreds of evacuees daily who would not otherwise have access to medical care.

Setting a new precedent

The surgeon general’s request marks the first time the federal government has called upon private health care organizations to provide long-term support as part of a nationally organized disaster relief plan. Scripps was honored to be the first health care provider asked to assist. In addition to providing medical care to a needy population, we brought back a wealth of knowledge about disaster response that will benefit Scripps and the San Diego community well into the future.

Making an impact

Our mission has always been to look beyond the walls of our hospitals and consider the community need. Scripps has a legacy of community service that goes back 115 years to the Sisters of Mercy and the 81-year-legacy of Ellen Browning Scripps and her establishment of a hospital and clinic in La Jolla.

In this national crisis, our mission took us to Houston, Texas. While Scripps caregivers made a tremendous impact on the lives of the patients they treated, the impact on our staff who volunteered was profound and will last a lifetime.

Facts and figures

  • 3,763 patients treated at George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.
  • 1,153 patients treated at community clinic sites.
  • More than 200 physicians, nurses and administrative employees volunteered for the response team in the first 24 hours. By the end of our two-week assignment we had received more than 400 applications.
  • In all, 21 physicians with a wide array of specialties and three physician assistants were sent to Houston.
  • 33 nurses – RNs, LVNs and nurse practitioners – were sent to Houston.
  • Eight administrative/logistics staff (non-clinical) were sent.
  • Physicians and staff represented all Scripps’ hospital campuses, five Scripps’ Clinic sites, Home Health and Scripps’ Administrative Services.
  • Insurance, liability, travel and lodging costs were paid for by the federal government.