New Orleans is in the midst of a troubling public health crisis. Charity Hospital has historically served New Orleans' most vulnerable citizens and its continued closure further jeopardizes the city's uninsured population, stretches limited government services to the their breaking point, and puts unnecessary strain on the region's private hospitals and care providers. The current LSU/VA plan condemns the residents of New Orleans to years of inadequate medical resources while their proposed facility is built. Since Charity Hospital can be renovated at least four and a half years faster than the LSU/VA proposal for a new medical complex, the work of attracting top flight medical personnel to provide critical public health services can begin sooner by rebuilding Charity.
Below you will find a collection of articles pertaining to the preservation issue:
With popular momentum building against it and the scrutiny of the national media growing brighter around the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's, state officials carefully managed the roll-out of the governance agreement inked by Tulane and LSU that will determine how board appointments and residency slots are filled for the proposed LSU/VA medical center. Allies of the proposed LSU/VA complex seized the opportunity to advance the notion that the governance agreement signals a "done deal," but in reality, little has changed.
Over the last few days, there have been a couple of especially compelling letters to the Times-Picayune that we absolutely must reproduce here.
Nathan Chapman wrote the paper yesterday with a wonderful takedown of the paper's editorial inclination against modernizing Charity Hospital and saving Lower Mid-City.
I was saddened by your Katrina anniversary front page editorial directed to President Obama. In it, you used this practically holy occasion to ask the president to advance the devastating LSU plan to bulldoze acres of Mid-City, much of which will become parking lots.
Katrina's anniversary is a time for us to all come together. A recent Renwick poll showed that most New Orleanians want a modern hospital to be created within the former Charity Hospital building. It is LSU and certain members of the business community who have been driving the current proposal.
That proposal is both wasteful and breath-taking in the damage that it will do to the heart of New Orleans, both to residences and valuable individual businesses.
This will not bring us together, which is what we need at this time.
Mr. Chapman, a well-known community leader, not only recognizes the growing power of the diverse coalition of stakeholders and citizens that want Charity modernized and the freedom to rebuild for Lower Mid-City but also sees both the emotional and practical consequences of driving a destructive proposal into the city's heart.
Today, Ella Stelter wrote scathingly of the recently-released designs for the proposed LSUAMC, comparing it to the failed urban renewal model that broke American cities and urban communities apart throughout the post-WWII era.
I recently read about the designs for the proposed LSU Academic Medical Center and then found some drawings of it on-line. As an architectural designer, I am absolutely horrified.
When young architects and planners are taught about the failed "urban renewal" policies of the past, this is exactly the type of project that would be held up as an example.
Bad planning brought us Armstrong Park and tried to put a highway through the French Quarter. Bad planning encouraged speculation in the CBD that turned historic buildings into surface parking.
If you look at the plans for the medical center, that is most of what you are going to see. Out of 13 blocks, seven are dominated by surface parking. One is a parking garage. That is 62 percent of the site!
City leaders and local citizens must step in to build a truly urban medical district.
It doesn't take a trained architect or planner to recognize a destructive policy or a bad idea. As Ms. Stelter points out, there are plenty of very unfortunate examples right here in our own backyard. That local power brokers consider their plan to abandon the historic medical district and flatten Lower Mid-City to be "moving forward" when sustainable and just alternatives have been ignored indicates just how behind-the-times they are.
Meanwhile, we're still glowing as a result of incredible the outpouring of support on the streets Monday evening. Don't miss this video put together by Trap Bonner.
Can you believe it? Twelve hundred people out in the streets parading and protesting for the rights of Lower Mid-City residents and for the gutting and rebuilding of Charity Hospital. It was an inspiring sight to see and to experience, and we'd like to thank everyone who attended from the bottom of our hearts for their support. Working on this issue continues to be an absolute privilege for both of us.
It's a party with a purpose, y'all. Come out and stand up for Charity Hospital TONIGHT.
The secondline parade will start at Charity Hospital, 1532 Tulane Street, at 6:00p.m. sharp. The Rebirth Brass Band and the Hot 8 Brass Band will lead the secondline for about one hour around the footprint of the proposed LSU medical center in Lower Mid-City, marching up Tulane Avenue, turning right on South Galvez Street, right on Canal Street, and right on South Robertson to end with a rally in front of Charity Hospital.
We hope you all are as pumped as we are! Check out the amazing John Boutte getting ready to roll.
If you can't make the parade, the party will continue at Handsome Willies at 218 S. Robertson St.
In advance of Monday evening's Second Line for Charity Hospital, a coalition of neighborhood groups and community organization has ballooned over the last few weeks to 77 members.
The coalition has organized around three demands. First, that an independent analysis of the two competing hospital plans be ordered by the governor. Second, that the City Planning Commission and City Council hold the legally required public hearings on the decision to cede Lower Mid-City for expropriation. Lastly, the coalition wants the costs and benefits of each competing hospital proposal to be evaluated within the confines of the Goody Clancy Master Plan process.
The group was organized this past spring and began with just over 40 members.
Attention all Charity Hospital babies, patients, doctors, nurses, staff, supporters and allies:
We need your help!
The next month is more than a series of frustrating fourth anniversaries - of the federal levee failure, of the evacuation of Charity Hospital, of the illegal decision to close Charity after it was decontaminated and ready to serve - it represents our best chance to act.
The forces that favor a destructive and expensive medical campus are huddling behind closed doors to push forward with their backward, Bush-era proposal.
The Louisiana Landmark Society has named its annual New Orleans Nine, which profiles nine historic buildings and community treasures threatened by demolition or deterioration. As one might expect, Charity Hospital is at the top of the list. The proposed LSU/VA medical complex would leave Charity Hospital abandoned in Downtown New Orleans without any clear plans to put it back into commerce.
Though Charity Hospital's basement flooded in the wake of the failure of the federal levee system, it was decontaminated and ready to reopen to serve patients within weeks, in September of 2005. State officials have represented the building as beyond repair to FEMA in an attempt to squeeze nearly $500 million out of the federal agency to put toward the proposed LSU/VA project. FEMA has said that state officials have improperly represented damage sustained as a result of years of deferred maintenance and as a result of the state's long-standing inability to complete routine roof repairs, secure broken windows and doors, and ventilate the building as storm-related.
This is great news, as it signals a substantive commitment to the physical building even as the state remains stubbornly attached to an unpopular proposal to abandon it as a hospital.
Yet, it is also an ironic step.
The FHL/RMJM alternative plan to rebuild Charity Hospital and save Lower Mid-City calls for, as a first step, the gutting of Charity Hospital. The video embedded above profiles RMJM's vision for a world-class medical facility inside the facade of historic Charity Hospital.
Thus, while our Louisiana officials cling to a proposed LSU medical campus that remains totally stuck in a complicated impasse, lacking both money and public support, they are prepared to implement the first step of the same alternative plan that it has refused to substantively evaluate, let alone adopt.
In other words, they've moved just as substantively toward construction on the plan they don't support than on the proposal they do.
It speaks to the core absurdity of the proposed LSU/VA medical center and the whole process in general; rather than quickly gut and rebuild Charity Hospital into a world-class facility immediately after Hurricane Katrina and in the midst of a healthcare infrastructure crisis that persists today, our elected leaders were somehow convinced to support the most expensive and time-consuming option on the table.
Perhaps, more cynically, given that the latest LSU/VA drawings show no shared infrastructure between two facilities, and given that the state misrepresented the condition of Charity Hospital at the time of its closure for so long, it should perhaps be argued that our elected leaders were mislead into supporting the most expensive and time-consuming option on the table.
As we approach the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the federal levee system, the illegal closure of Charity Hospital and the backroom to sacrifice Lower Mid-City remain a black eye on the rebuilding of this city, an emblem of the disconnect between the inspiring resilience of individual New Orleans citizens and the ever-deteriorating responsiveness of our state and local government.
Recently, Louisiana and Obama Administration officials announced that special arbitration panels to resolve ongoing disputes between the state and FEMA over public words projects would be set up to begin hearings by the end of August. Further review of the principles guiding the rules of the arbitration system indicates a further erosion of stakeholder rights in the Charity Hospital controversy, expected to be the biggest dispute settled by the panels.
When Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the creation of the panels, SaveCharityHospital.com applauded the move. We believed it to be a positive sign that the Obama administration was taking definitive action toward an inclusive resolution to an impasse in which state officials have been clinging to an unpopular and underfunded proposal to build a $2.5 billion medical campus on top of a residential neighborhood. A once-and-for-all decision that would affirm that Charity Hospital was not, as some officials have maintained, "completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina" might finally force local politicians to reconsider the FHL/RMJM alternative plan that would result in the rebuilding of Charity Hospital. The faster and less expensive restoration of healthcare to New Orleans residents, and an affirmation of Lower Mid-City residents' right to rebuild their neighborhood.
However, a FAQ section set up on FEMA's website indicates that the arbitration panels, designed to make binding and final decisions on this critical matter, will actually represent yet another secret, backroom deal in which stakeholders will not be permitted a substantive opportunity to have input.
Most of the arbitrations will be decided on the written statements provided by the parties. If any of the parties requests an oral hearing, hearings may be held telephonically or by other electronic means so long as the parties may hear and respond to each other, or in-person, where the arbitration panel is located. Most of the arbitration panels are expected to be located in Washington D.C. The arbitration proceedings are not open to the public, but the final decisions will be available to the public.(Emphasis added)
Given diminishing public confidence in the ability of local elected officials to act in the public interest and growing public skepticism of the utility of state plans to demolish Lower Mid-City for a medical campus it cannot fund, it is extremely disappointing that the thousands of New Orleans residents affected by this decision may be again deprived of a fair public hearing. Recent polls have indicated overwhelming support for public input and transparency in the hospital controversy.
Perhaps more consequentially for the panel's ability to make a truly informed and just decision, this kind of secrecy will exclude stakeholder organizations, institutions, and individuals from sharing essential information. The state has an unfortunate record on the Charity controversy:
The illegal decision to lock the building in 2005 after it had been decontaminated and was ready to receive patients, and
The state's poor stewardship of the building over the last four years that has lead to additional damage to the facility
It is disappointing that the final decision on the issue could be made behind yet another set of closed doors.
The structure of the arbitration system would also seem counter to President Obama's long-standing commitment to government transparency as a means of earning public trust after decades of eroding faith in public institutions.
All stakeholders in the hospital controversy should be given an opportunity to submit testimony and evidence in arbitration, and the panels should be open to the public so that when final decisions are made, they can be trusted as based on complete information and reasoned judgment.