LAFOURCHE PARISH, La. — Walking through the halls of Lady of the Sea General Hospital in Cut Off, the damage from Hurricane Ida is unbelievable to folks like CEO Karen Collins. She’s had several job titles here since 1982.
“It’s just devastating for our community as well as the employees,” said Collins. “Not only did we have damage to the hospital, we had a number of employees that lost their homes entirely.”
Cell phone video shows the moment when part of the back roof peeled off during the storm.
“I heard the noise,” said Dr. Camille Pitre. “I was in ICU and I was able to look out of a window and it was just a vortex of debris.”
Four COVID patients were inside the hospital. Dr. Pitre was one of the physicians caring for them, as water started falling down the inside walls and stairwells.
“We spent some time chasing that water with blankets and towels and it was just a losing battle,” said Pitre. “We couldn’t use the elevator. We had to bring patients down the stairs from the second floor to the first floor and we had to travel with equipment and with supplies via stairs, carefully, because that’s where a lot of the water was coming in.”
Once the storm was over, those patients were airlifted to other hospitals. Lady of the Sea was left standing, but unable to care for its community. As a critical access hospital with no power, within two weeks, workers had an emergency department, health clinic and pharmacy operating off generators.
“It’s going to be a long road,” said Collins.
Collins says that long road is at least six months to a year before Lady of the Sea is back in operation.
“Which is a big blow to our community because we are the only hospital within 30 minutes. In some areas we serve, an hour to the next closest hospital,” said Collins.
Knowing this hospital means so much to folks in Lafourche Parish, Collins says medical services are critical right now.
“This community is very devoted to us,” said Collins. “They have supported us through years here and our staff is very, very committed to making sure they get the best care possible.”
The hospital now has a temporary roof as crews remove wet walls and ceiling tiles, salvaging what they can. The inside may be destroyed, but heart of the hospital keeps beating.