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Bill Frist parachutes in to save the day

U.S. Sen. Bill Frist of Tenn. volunteers at the makeshift hospital at the New Orleans airport where many of the victims of Hurricane Katrina were waiting for evacuation. (AP Photo/Steve Senne)

The Cat Killer is down in the disaster zone for his major photo op/saviour opportunity as we speak, kicking the Admin along the way to score some political points. At least he has medical skills that can be put to use as he polishes his ’08 rep…

Bill Frist took off his senator’s coat on Saturday and flew for New Orleans as a medical volunteer. But what he found among the thousands needing treatment from Hurricane Katrina was a rescue effort in chaos: patients sleeping on luggage conveyors, teams of nurses who didn’t know each other’s names and a total communication breakdown.

In the airport right now there is no communication between one unit and another,” said Frist, R-Tenn., the Senate’s majority leader and a surgeon. “No coordination with how many people will be coming in the door 10 minutes later,” he told The Associated Press. “That’s sort of the most disappointing thing. It’s probably the greatest failure.”

Frist left Washington around 4:30 a.m. Saturday on his private plane. He spent most of the day helping to treat thousands of victims at Louis Armstrong International Airport and the New Orleans Convention Center. He spoke by phone from a helicopter shuttling him between the two, taking a 45-minute tour above the flooded streets of downtown.

Frist also said the federal government had acted too slowly in dealing with the hurricane’s aftermath. “Given the escalation of catastrophe that occurred over the first three days, absolutely I would have liked to see the federal government respond quicker, more rapidly, with better command and control centers and much improved communication,” Frist said.

“I’m not going to get into finger-pointing now. I did call for oversight hearings _ I wouldn’t have done that if I weren’t concerned. We’ve got to do better.” The senator spent the day treating diabetics for low blood sugar and dealing with cases of high blood pressure and dehydration. Though he is a surgeon by training, there was no need to perform surgery on Saturday, he said.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding