Johnny Adrianni, a political consultant from New Orleans and the son of the legendary Dr. John Adriani who worked at Charity Hospital and advocated for lower prescription drug costs, wrote an incredible letter to the editors of the Baton Rouge Advocate.
Mr. Adrianni raises an issue that ought to be raised more often. If Charity was so irreparably damaged by Katrina, why was it so easy to reopen University Hospital, which sustained much more flooding after the levees broke?
Neglected in the whole Charity Hospital debacle is what happened merely a few blocks away at University Hospital. Like Charity, the basement of University Hospital flooded. Unlike Charity, the flooding was not limited to just the basement; the first floor flooded as well.
According to Cerise, “the state relied on recommendations from building experts to make the decision to keep Charity Hospital in New Orleans shut after Hurricane Katrina.”
What he fails to mention is that those recommendations were not exclusive to Charity Hospital. The report the state relied upon also assessed University Hospital.
Donald Smithburg, former CEO and executive vice president of LSU Health Care Services Division, told the LSU Board of Supervisors in October 2005, “The Big Charity and University Hospital buildings were issued their ‘death warrant’ by Katrina and the cataclysmic floods it spawned,” (“Charity, University hospitals ‘dangerous.’ ” Alexandria Daily Town Talk, Oct. 6, 2005, Page 3A).
Smithburg claimed that both Charity and University hospitals were “unusable due to structural, mechanical and environmental damage,” (“Money needed to keep Charity going.” The Times-Picayune, Dec. 10, 2005, Page 7B), as he relied heavily upon the report issued by Adams Management Services Corp., which stated: “Given the dangerous nature of the facilities at this time, they should not be occupied for any purpose, short-term or long-term, especially inpatient use.”
Smithburg also warned that “You can get mold out, you can get dirt out, but you can’t get bacteria out,” (“FORCED TO CHANGE.” The Times-Picayune, Jan. 9, 2006, Page 1A).
Oddly, University Hospital reopened. And therein lies the proverbial “fly in the ointment.” All the claims about Charity Hospital not being “viable” due to mold, structural and other environmental problems ring rather hollow as those very concerns existed at University Hospital.
Good point, Mr. Adrianni! We'd also like to know why the state chose to ignore the recommendations of "building experts" in the case of University Hospital but not Charity, especially when Charity Hospital looked like this three weeks after the storm.