In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, questions remain concerning the availability of hospital inpatient care and emergency department services in the greater New Orleans area--which consists of Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard parishes. Because of broad-based congressional interest, GAO, under the Comptroller General's statutory authority to conduct evaluations, assessed efforts to restore the area's hospitals by the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); and the Louisiana State University (LSU) public hospital system, which operated Charity and University hospitals in New Orleans. GAO examined (1) the availability of hospital inpatient care and the demand for emergency department services, (2) steps taken to reopen Charity and University hospitals, and (3) the activities that HHS has undertaken to help hospitals recover. To fulfill these objectives, GAO reviewed documents and interviewed federal officials and hospital, state, and local officials in the greater New Orleans area. GAO also obtained information on the number of inpatient beds for April 2006, which was the most recent data available when GAO did its work. GAO's work did not include other issues related to hospitals such as outpatient services or financial condition.
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