Health Care

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:

Obama volunteers to rally at Charity Hospital tomorrow!

Between 4 and 5PM on Saturday, June 27th - that's tomorrow - Organizing For America will hold a rally in front of Charity Hospital to cap off efforts in support of President Obama's National Health Care Day of Service.

Check it out!

 

A proclamation will be issued honoring all health care professionals and health care providers who remained in New Orleans during Katrina and those who returned to our City. Participants are asked to bring their health care stories, particularly those involving the significance of Charity Hospital in New Orleans.

You will have an opportunity to record your stories. Written surveys will be forwarded to President Obama and entered as stories in the health care reform stories blog.

The Charity memoirs will be compiled and made available for public readings.

 

There are a whole slate of health related service events scheduled throughout the city on Saturday including AIDS testing, a healthy food drive, a blood drive, and more. You can see them here.

Healthcare reform is at the heart of the President's domestic policy agenda just as healthcare infrastructure remains the number one hole in our local social safety net.

Be there!

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State Admits It Has No Business Plan For New LSU Hospital?

On May 27th, LSU President John V. Lombardi gave a much-discussed talk to the LSU Foundation and said, amongst other things, the following: 

"Well LSU's presented about five business plans but the current business plan has been validated by every smart consultant in the Western World. It shows this deal will work. It shows that the way we're doing this will be capable of generating revenue, capable of providing the capital that will make this work."

Then two weeks later, in testimony to the Senate Education Committee against House Bill 780, Director of the Office of Facility Planning and Control Jerry Jones alleged that the bill was a bad idea because it would halt progress on the proposed LSU medical complex in Lower Mid-City. Addressing the Committee on June 11th, Jones said:

"To say that there isn't a business plan is just not the truth. We have had three business plans.

Of course all of those purported plans were put together before the credit crisis and financial collapse.

Yesterday's press release by Jones' boss, Division of Administration Commissioner Angele Davis seems to confirm that neither Director Jones nor President Lombardi have been entirely forthright with the Committee, in other recent testimony to the Legislature, nor in various public statements stressing the same point.

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Breaking: Expropriation Halted; Wheels Off The Wagon?

What is going on in Baton Rouge today?

This just in from the Times-Picayune:

 

State halts land acquisition for New Orleans teaching hospital


Seeking leverage to force a truce between Louisiana State University and Tulane University, the state is suspending land acquisition activities for the teaching hospital proposed for lower Mid-City, the Jindal administration said today.

The announcement by Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis came a day after the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors rejected a draft memorandum of understanding that calls for the $1.2 billion hospital to be run by a non-profit corporation governed by an independent, 12-member board of directors.

 

Here is Commissioner Davis' full statement:

 

"There remains no agreement on the proposed governing structure and it is critical that we make an intensified effort to reach an agreement before the state acts to purchase the property. The proposed agreement called for a non-profit corporation to operate the hospital, with the corporation being responsible for obtaining debt financing. Without this corporation, or an agreement by the stakeholders to form the corporation, financing the project becomes a bigger challenge.

 

"This will have no impact on the VA Hospital and the on-going land acquisition activities for the new VA Hospital in New Orleans. Today, we are suspending land acquisition activities and efforts for the MCLNO / Charity replacement hospital pending a resolution of the governance issue."

 

This is, at face value, excellent news. However, our intial concern is that the state is basing the decision to halt acquisition based on the governance issue when the reality is that the LSU financing plan will remained flawed regardless of how Tulane and LSU resolve their political issues.

To that end, we're also interested in a resolution that was passed out of the Senate late yesterday. Senate Resolution 116 by Sen. Jack Donahue (R - Mandeville) "requests the LSU Board of Supervisors to submit all of its existing business plans and all supporting data for the development of a replacement for the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans to the Senate by 3 pm on Tuesday, June 23, 2009."

Thus, LSU would be encouraged to back up their bravado on their financing plan for construction of the proposed new medical complex. Rhetorically, it's similar to the inherently more substantive HB 780, which would have prohibited land acquisition until the Legislature approved a business plan.

This resolution strikes us as somewhat unusual. Perhaps Sen. Donahue is embarrassed about his vote against HB 780 on the Education Committee from two weeks ago.

Wild end to the session, no?

We'll report back when we know more.

Disposable?

Yesterday, the Sunday Edition of the Times-Picayune featured a devastating op-ed by Mickey Weiser, owner of Weiser Securities in Lower Mid-City. A few days before that, on Friday evening, Dennis Woltering of WWLTV got out into the neighborhood and spoke to Lower Mid-City homeowners about living in limbo while waiting for LSU/VA wrecking balls.

The two reports underscore the importance of something like House Bill 780 which would prohibited state seizure of private lands in the proposed LSU medical center footprint in Lower Mid-City until LSU can prove it has a legitimate plan to pay for the completion of their proposed project. HB 780 passed the State House overwhelmingly before getting tabled by the Senate Education Committee. Its chances for revival and passage grow increasingly remote as the legislative session in Baton Rouge comes to a close.

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Dr. Hollier on abandoning New Orleans: Not feasible, massively expensive

Yesterday, Anna Heumann of the independent student newspaper Tiger Weekly was able to track down Dr. Larry Hollier, Chancellor of the LSU Health Sciences Center of New Orleans, to ask him some follow-up questions related to a recent article published in the Times-Picayune that profiled a series of threats LSU officials have made to abandon New Orleans by moving the proposed medical center to Baton Rouge.

Dr. Hollier's statements should finally put to bed the false notion that should LSU not be permitted to build their preferred $1.2 billion medical complex just as they've proposed it, they'll leave town entirely.

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Hospital Controversy Not Exclusive To New Orleans

While we've been focusing on exposing the folly of abandoning Charity Hospital for a costly, uncertain, and destructive medical complex in Lower Mid-City, we've come to realize that LSU has been threatening public hospitals throughout the state. Check out this article from yesterday's Advocate about the proposed closure of Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge.

State Senate Pro Tem Sharon Broome's concerns sound quite familiar don't ya think?

 

“Right now I cannot put my stamp of approval on this,” said Broome, D-Baton Rouge. “Certainly this Our Lady of the Lake merger is one alternative. … I want us to use this opportunity to also look at some other alternatives.

 

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GNOBEDD Earmark Update

On Monday, Speaker Pro Tem Karen Carter Peterson's proposed Louisiana Healthy Families Act passed the Appropriations Committee by a one-vote margin. The Louisiana Healthy Families Act proposes a tax on cigarettes and tobacco products that would steer new revenue to various health care initiatives.

SaveCharityHospital.com has been interested in that bill because of an earmark Rep. Peterson proposed to steer money to GNOBEDD, the Greater New Orleans Biosciences Development District. We have had concerns that the plan GNOBEDD is creating for their district -- a large swath New Orleans bounded by Loyola Ave., Earhart Blvd., Iberville St., and Carrollton Ave. -- may undermine the comprehensive master plan and zoning ordinance being created by the firm Goody Clancy.

Just before the vote on Monday, Rep. Michael Danahay (D - Sulpher) offered an interesting amendment that passed and was adopted into the bill. Essentially, it undercuts the GNOBEDD expropriation by mandating that the money raised from the bill be used "only on activities related to cancer research or smoking cessation and prevention."

It is unclear whether the Greater New Orleans Biosciences Development District has any experience with administering public health outreach campaigns.

A $100,000 earmark for GNOBEDD remains in the general appropriations bill, House Bill 1. It does not appear there are any restrictions on how that money can be spent.

Malicious threat or empty rhetoric?

One of the most potent points for those who favor proceeding with the proposed LSU/VA medical complex has been the fear that, should LSU be forced to make compromise in any way, they will simply abandon the City of New Orleans and build their flagship teaching hospital in Baton Rouge.

The fear that LSU is ready, willing, and able to pull up stakes in New Orleans is having a huge impact on the local decision-making process and may have been a decisive factor for many local leaders' support of LSU's complex proposal.

This weekend, Bill Barrow of the Times-Picayune looked into the proliferation of this threat and touched on whether or not it is of any substance.

Most publicly, the LSU Foundation has begun running radio ads in the New Orleans area insinuating that people expressing reservations of their agenda could force the university to pull up stakes in New Orleans.

One ad, which you can hear for yourself here, reads:

"[W]ithout a major teaching facility . . . LSU would have to find some other way to train the medical students, dental students, allied health professionals, nursing students. If we can't do it in New Orleans, we would have to move some of our activity to other areas."

That LSU would publicly threaten to abandon New Orleans in the midst of an ongoing public health crisis that has grown in the aftermath of the tragedy and trauma of Katrina and the flood is shameful and wrong. That this sordid intimidation attempt is designed to squash legitimate questions and concerns about the efficacy of their proposal, its costs, and its feasibility is both cynical and revealing.

But this isn't just a menacing public communications campaign, it was also instrumental in LSU's behind-the-scenes strategy for lobbying elected officials.

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Opportunity Cost: Health Care in New Orleans East

Recently, there have been some heartening rays of hope for health care in New Orleans East. Devastated by flooding after the federal levee failure, residents of the East have suffered due to the absence of emergency services. Ambulance times for those that get hurt working on a house or otherwise fall ill have been unacceptable and inhumane. The absence of medical services on the downriver side of the Industrial Canal has adversely affected public health not just in New Orleans East but also in Gentilly, the Lower 9th Ward, and Chalmette.

Finally, it looks like there is progress.

How does this connect to the larger ongoing controversy surrounding health care infrastructure in New Orleans?

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