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Study shows Hurricane Katrina affected 20,000 physicians, up to 6,000 may have been displaced

CHAPEL HILL -- Hurricane Katrina and the city-swamping floods that drowned New Orleans and surrounding areas in a toxic gumbo appear to have dislocated up to 5,944 active, patient-care physicians, a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study shows. That is the largest single displacement of doctors in U.S. history, and Hurricane Rita over the weekend will have boosted the total to an unknown degree.

"The nearly 6,000 is the approximate number of physicians doing primarily patient care in the 10 counties and parishes in Louisiana and Mississippi that have been directly affected by Katrina flooding," said UNC's Dr. Thomas C. Ricketts. "Over two-thirds -- 4,486 -- of those were in the three central New Orleans parishes that were evacuated."

The number displaced also was more than one-quarter of the total number of new physicians who start practice in the United States each year, said Ricketts, deputy director for policy analysis at UNC's Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research and professor of health policy and administration at the School of Public Health.

"A large proportion of the practicing physicians in the area were also in training in residency programs," he said. "In the immediate three-parish New Orleans area, more than 1,270 residents physicians were training at the time Katrina struck."

Ricketts, who also directs the Southeast Regional Center for Health Workforce Studies, led the analysis of data drawn from the March, 2005 American Medical Association Masterfile of Physicians and FEMA-posted information. He also used data from the American Association of Medical Colleges, Tulane and Louisiana State universities medical schools, the Texas Board of Medicine and the state of Louisiana.

Of the physicians in the Katrina flood-affected areas, which included six Louisiana and four Mississippi counties or parishes, the majority, 2,952, were specialists with 1,292 in primary care and 272 in obstetrics and
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Contact: David Williamson
rdtokids@email.unc.edu
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
26-Sep-2005


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