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Delivering a full-service hospital to New Orleans East

13th June 2011   ·   0 Comments

By Mitchell J. Landrieu
Mayor of New Orleans

In New Orleans East, the Ninth Ward and Gentilly, nearly 80,000 residents are up to 30 minutes away from an emergency room. This is not only shameful — it is a matter of life or death. Residents have made their voices heard: Five years after Hurricane Katrina, the absence of a hospital is unacceptable.

That’s why I’ve made delivering a full service hospital to the East a top priority of my administration. After five long years of inaction, we have — in just one year — taken significant steps to make the hospital a reality.

At the outset, I appointed seven new board members from the New Orleans East community to the Hospital Service District Board, so they could make key decisions to move the hospital forward. The new board, led by Chairman Ronnie Burns, has worked tirelessly with a singular focus on getting the job done.

In August 2010, four months after taking office, we bought the former Methodist Hospital site for $16.25 million, a real estate deal which saved taxpayers $23.64 million. This savings is significant because we now have an additional $23 million on hand to open the hospital.

In January 2011, we hit another milestone — the City reached an agreement with Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans and the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady to operate the hospital. As part of the agreement, Daughters of Charity committed an additional $2 million to the project. The City has also secured a nearly $1 million federal grant to purchase hospital equipment, and a $50,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support the Board’s work to rebuild the hospital.

We are working with our legislative delegation and Councilmember Jon Johnson to secure $30 million in state capital outlay funds for the hospital. It’s my number one priority, and our delegation is fighting hard for us in Baton Rouge.

To keep moving forward, the board has ordered site preparation for construction of the hospital. At the end of June, we will demolish two blighted buildings on the hospital campus.

The board is also moving swiftly to hire critical technical teams focused on opening the hospital. In addition, a search committee is working to hire an Executive to lead the Hospital Service District.

Understanding the critical importance of having immediate emergency healthcare services in New Orleans East, we will open an urgent care facility in July as a first step toward opening a full-service hospital in 2013. We need urgent care now, as we keep pushing forward on the hospital, so that a mother never again has to drive 30 minutes to find treatment for a child suffering from an asthma attack or a broken bone.

The path will not be easy, and the obstacles are many. But by working as one team with a common purpose, together we can and will deliver a full-service hospital in New Orleans East.

This story originally published in the June 13, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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