Like many other shell-shocked volunteers involved in the relief effort for Hurricane Katrina evacuees, Dr. Paul Sirbaugh left his busy yet relatively controlled day job for the chaotic, unpredictable, and overwhelming experience of a lifetime. For approximately two weeks, Paul left his position at TCH and became the Medical Director for the Hurricane Katrina Pediatric Clinic at the Reliant Park Facilities (Astrodome) in Houston Texas. Over 3500 pediatric patients were treated on site; only 50 were transported to area hospitals. TCH never reached surge capacity and as a result, its emergency department and wards continued to function with only a slight increase in volume.
Many lessons were learned in the response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. One was the usefulness of a Mobile Pediatric Emergency Response Team (MPERT), which staffed a temporary pediatric clinic near the displaced population. As Houston became the new home for 300,000 people, a percentage of evacuated children needed medical triage, evaluation, and management. They would be likely to seek care at local emergency departments, many of which were already at surge capacity. To prevent severe overcrowding in these local emergency departments, Dr. Paul Sirbaugh, spearheaded the Texas Children's Hospital effort to expend the resources necessary to care for these displaced children near the site of their temporary shelter.
There is a need for pediatric specialists in disasters. The pediatricians who initially arrived to assist in caring for evacuated children did so not at the request of regional medical leadership, but at the request of the local media who were pleading for medical assistance for the displaced people. A temporary pediatric clinic provided a higher level of care that many evacuees had experienced in New Orleans. The clinic cared for approximately 2000 patients. Notably, not a single child died and less than 50 required EMS transport to area hospitals.
In his free time, Dr. Sirbaugh pursued an entrepreneurial dream and created a company (http://patientcaregivers.com) to provide a more compassionate and customized caregiver service for the elderly in Texas. This project was a labor of love and stemmed from many years of frustration in trying to find care for his own parents who both suffered from dementia.