updated 9/2/2008 7:38:23 PM ET 2008-09-02T23:38:23

Almost 700 patients in a dozen Louisiana hospitals may have to be evacuated in the next three days because the facilities do not have air conditioning.

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Officials were also concerned Tuesday that seven nursing homes would have to be evacuated for the same reasons. But generators arrived at the nursing homes later in the day, allowing the residents to stay put, the state’s secretary of Health and Hospitals, Alan Levine, told The Associated Press.

These hospitals and nursing homes decided before the storm not to move the patients instead of evacuate them, Trey Williams, a spokesman for the Louisiana governor’s office, said from Baton Rouge. While the hospitals have back-up generators, the emergency power does not run air conditioning systems, he said. It was about 85 degrees in the New Orleans area Tuesday with 82 percent humidity, according to the National Weather Service.

State officials asked hospitals and nursing homes Monday how the patients would fare without power for between 24 and 72 hours, Levine said. Since then, state officials transported 139 patients whom doctors feared would not survive long without air conditioning. These patients were critically ill, and a few were from hospital burn units, Levine said. As of Tuesday evening, none of the patients had died during the recent evacuation.

“Our goal throughout this has been to minimize the loss of life and to protect our folks,” he said.

Before Hurricane Gustav hit the Gulf Coast Monday, about 10,000 people were evacuated from hospitals and nursing homes. Six people who were critically ill died during the pre-storm evacuation of natural causes, Levine said.

Stories of nursing home deaths during Hurricane Katrina were widely reported three years ago. Since then state and local officials have paid close attention to the needs of the elderly and critical care patients.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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