savecharityhospital's blog

Johnny Adriani catches LSU "fly in the ointment"

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.

U.N. Advisor's Message to Lower Mid-City: "Fight This, You're Going to Win"

The U.N. Advisory Group on Forced Evictions completed their fact finding mission to New Orleans yesterday with a press conference on the steps of City Hall. As they prepared to travel to Washington D.C. to discuss their findings with federal officials, Advisory Group spokesperson Leilani Farha delivered a message to Lower Mid-City residents facing eviction by the current LSU/VA plan:

Fight this. You are going to win.

As we recently reported, the Advisory Group on Forced Evictions conducted their first visit to the United States to address the problems facing New Orleans, including those in Lower Mid-City. 

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United Nations Group Studying Forced Evictions

With 30,000 youth volunteers from the Lutheran Church roaming the streets of New Orleans in large herds over this past weekend, you may be forgiven for not noticing a slightly smaller group of visitors that will remain in town for much of the week: the United Nations Advisory Group on Forced Evictions.

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Organizing Works!

We were pleasantly greeted by a headline in the Times-Picayune this morning:


"Neighborhood opposition spurs Port of New Orleans reconsider plans for Cold Storage facility."


What was once a 'done deal' to bring an environmentally hazardous industrial facility to a dense residential neighborhood is now being reconsidered after neighbors organized to stand strong against it. The fight may not be over yet but the folks that have worked hard on the 'stop cold storage' campaign have proven that when ordinary people get together in support of common goals, they can overcome the politically connected.

If we continue to organize, we can stop another supposed 'done deal,' the LSU/VA boondoggle, and instead win support for a cheaper, faster, and better alternative.

Secretary Shinseki: VA will need additional $300 million for proposed hospital

Yesterday, four of President Obama's cabinet secretaries held a town hall meeting in Reserve, LA to highlight issues facing rural communities. For Secretary Eric Shinseki, of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the most pressing questions involved the dragging status of the proposed VA replacement hospital in New Orleans.

After fielding questions from local veterans frustrated with the pace of the project, Shinseki reaffirmed his commitment to bringing a new VA Hospital online by 2013. However, his comments also reflect growing concerns that the project may be behind schedule.

In April, the Baton Rouge Advocate reported after an open meeting to discuss the potential design of the VA project that the cost of the hospital had been underestimated.


The VA replacement hospital, estimated at $625 million in 2005, will be built on a 71-acre site in the Lower Mid-City neighborhood near the old Dixie Brewery. The facility will be next to a proposed $1.2 billion, 424-bed teaching hospital operated by LSU.

But Orndoff said the actual cost of the VA facility “could be several hundred million dollars higher.” 


Yesterday, Shinseki confirmed that the project still lacks sufficient funds. 


"Money has been put aside; about $600 million already set aside. But we expect, when it's done, this will be a $900 million project," Shinseki said. 

Though the VA has not traditionally struggled to obtain Congressional appropriations, it may prove more difficult to shake loose an additional $300 million in the midst of the current economic climate.

Shinseki also commented on the controversial site selection for the proposed VA Hospital, which will lead to the wholesale demolition of the most populated areas of Lower Mid-City.


The location of the facility is being worked out "with your leadership here," he said.


That is a fairly notable abdication of the VA's responsibility for a site selection process that has tethered the agency to an LSU proposal that seems to be falling apart.

Considering that the City Planning Commission has repeatedly insisted on their own powerlessness over these decisions because of the VA's federal authority, Shinseki's statement can be interpreted as contradictory to the claims of the CPC.

Given the delays, cost increases, and the floundering partnership with LSU, perhaps Secretary Shinseki would be open to asserting his own leadership by revisiting the site selection issue and negotiating an amicable alternative.

Four long years of flawed intelligence

Last week, we wrote about recent public comments by Lt. General Russel Honoré, former Governor Kathleen Blanco, and others about the circumstances surrounding the original decision to close Charity Hospital after it had been decontaminated for the purpose of treating patients. There has been a long-standing effort by state and LSU officials to mislead the public and FEMA about the extent to which Charity was damaged by Katrina's winds and the federal levee floods.

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Hazy Memories: Officials Pass Buck On Charity Closure Decision

In what could prove to be a tide-turning series of articles, reporters have begun to confront elected and appointed officials about the original decision to shut down Charity Hospital in late September of 2005. After a teams of doctors, nurses, and military personnel worked around the clock to decontaminate the first three floors of the building and announced it was ready to receive patients, the decision to close Charity has left the city of New Orleans without needed health services for nearly four years.

The slow retreat of many public officials' support for the increasingly tenuous LSU/VA proposal has morphed into a full-fledged blame game this week.

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Analysis: How the lawsuit against the Mayor could save taxpayers $5 million

On Tuesday, four New Orleans residents filed suit against Mayor C, Ray Nagin arguing that he repeatedly violated the New Orleans City Charter by authorizing the seizure of private property and the closure of public streets for the proposed Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The petition charges that the Mayor abused his authority in signing agreements with the VA without seeking the approval of City Council and the City Planning Commission and seeks to have those obligations nullified.

In examining the petition itself, it would appear that the City is poised to put New Orleans taxpayers on the hook for damages owed to the VA that the Mayor may have been unlawfully authorized in the first place.

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Breaking: Lawsuit filed against Mayor Ray Nagin

Earlier this morning, a lawsuit was filed in Civil District Court that argues that Mayor C. Ray Nagin repeatedly violated the New Orleans City Charter in authorizing the seizure of private property and the closure of public streets for the proposed Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The challenge indicates that the Mayor illegally bypassed City Charter provisions and state law requiring for public hearings in front of City Council and the City Planning Commission.

At a public "forum" in front of the City Planning Commission on the ongoing hospital controversies in May, Commissioners repeatedly reiterated their view that they lacked authority to intervene in the matter in any way whatsoever. (See also, the New Orleans Institute report from that event.)

This lawsuit, however, indicates that the CPC has been unlawfully absolved of their legal responsibilities as outlined by City Charter.

If Judge Ethel Julien finds the law was not followed, the entire VA project will have been put in jeopardy by the unlawful application of power by the Mayor and the acquiescence of Council and the Planning Commission.

Download the full text of the petition here.

See the full release after the jump:

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General Honore Slams Decision To Close Charity Hospital

Lt. General Russel Honoré – commander of Joint Task Force Katrina – says Charity Hospital "could have been reopened" in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

In a recent interview with WWL's Dennis Woltering, Lt. General Honoré questioned state and local officials' decision to keep Charity closed after it was partially decontaminated three weeks after Hurricane Katrina.

His response supports the accounts of Dr. James Moises, Sgt. John Johnson, and others who helped clean the building during the chaotic aftermath of the storm.

It also helps corroborate photographic evidence obtained by that shows a cleaned up Charity Hospital from September, 2005.


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