Saturday, September 10, 2005

"Nurses respond"


Fulton Alexander, of Biloxi, works Wednesday at the FEMA distribution point at Cedar Popps Plaza in Biloxi. Alexander has worked as a volunteer for Hurricane Katrina survivors since last week. JOHN FITZHUGH / SUN HERALD

All week I've been overhearing one end of the phone conversations in the office behind me: "Yes, we are sending nurses; when would you be able to go?" -- "No, I can't tell you now when you'll leave, but we're making arrangements now and I'll call you back." -- "We have a flight arranged for tomorrow morning, can you still go?"

And they have gone. The California Nurses Association (CNA) and the National Nurses Organizing Committee sent 100 nurses to the Gulf Coast to help hurricane evacuees long before federal relief authorities began to get their act together. More nurses are still going.

The South Mississippi Sun Herald reported their arrival in Wiggins:

Though tired from the long trip, the nurses were eager to get to work. Mike Barber of Grass Valley, Calif., who had just changed into his blue hospital uniform, said, "We're nurses and typically nurses, when called into action, respond."

Shelia Hidalgo of San Francisco also was ready to help, "This is the United States. It's our people. We need to help."

CNA is still taking names of volunteers here.

Almost as important, it is asking for contributions to help pay for its relief flights. CNA/NNOC is covering transportation and lodging and, depending on the assignment, may cover other expenses. They estimate costs at approximately $2,500 per nurse. If you can help, donate here. "100% of the money goes to sending nurses and 0% goes to administrative costs," according to CNA.

The hurricane and breakdown of government's responsibility to cope with disaster made this week emotionally frustrating for those of us watching in horror -- it was a good week to be working temporarily for a union that really tried to help.

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