LSU's Cerise: "We're going to have to step back"

In a candid admission to the Appropriations Committee in Baton Rouge, the Associated Press reports that LSU Vice Chancellor Fred Cerise conceded that the proposed LSUAMC faced major hurdles and may have to be completely reexamined.

Just a week after LSU agreed to participate in the Department of Homeland Security's special arbitration process to determine whether the state has honestly represented the damages incurred at Charity Hospital during Katrina and how much the state should be reimbursed by the federal government, Cerise conceded that the entire project could be in jeopardy depending on the result.

"If we don't get the money from FEMA, then we're going to have step back and say, 'OK, now what is the plan? What can we iron out?'"

A lack of reimbursement money is not the only problem that could force LSU to reexamine their proposal and in fact, might an unfavorable arbitration decision could only serve as LSU's scapegoat for other hurdles threatening the viability of the controversial medical complex slated for Lower Mid-Cty.

Even if LSU gets every penny they've demanded, they will remain hundreds of millions of dollars short of the money they need to proceed with construction on the proposed $1.2 billion medical complex.

Because of the crippled credit market, uncertainty over how states will be reimbursed for medical costs after healthcare reform, and LSU's incomplete business plans, State Treasurer John Kennedy has consistently argued since last Spring that LSU stands little chance of impressing Wall Street enough to obtain the necessary loans.

The dispute between FEMA and state officials over the extent of the damages sustained at Charity Hospital during Hurricane Katrina could be resolved within months. State officials have claimed Charity Hospital was completely destroyed by the storm. FEMA has countered by pointing out that much of the damage claimed by state officials resulted from years of poor maintenance and the failure of the Department of Facility Planning and Control to properly secure the building since Katrina. Only the basement of Charity Hospital flooded after the failure of the levee system. Military and medical personnel quickly decontaminated parts of the building but work halted after state officials ordered the building closed. Pictures obtained by demonstrate the condition of the building at that time and would seem to indicate that the state's case to the special arbitration panel appears tenuous at best.

Advocates for Charity Hospital and residents of Lower Mid-City maintain that LSU could build a state-of-the-art medical facility faster and for less capital than their current controversial proposal by building within the facade of historic Charity Hospital.