On Tuesday, November 17th – by a 7-3 vote – the Commission on Streamlining Government passed a motion ordering an independent study weighing all possible alternatives to, and the efficacy of, the proposed $1.2 billion LSU medical complex. The study will represent the first ever independent analysis in the ongoing controversy over the abandonment of Charity Hospital and new plans to expropriate and demolish private property in Lower Mid-City to make way for a sprawling new medical center campus. The vote is an enormous victory for advocates of Charity Hospital and Lower Mid-City residents and business owners.
Even after testimony from LSU Health Sciences Center Chancellor Dr. Larry Hollier, Director of Facility Planning and Control Jerry Jones, LSU VP of Health Affairs Dr. Fred Cerise, and DHH Secretary Alan Levine urging the commission to reject the motion, members of the Commission were ultimately pursuaded to finally call for the independent analysis Charity and Lower Mid-City advocates have been demandin because of LSU's trouble financing the proposed medical center, the possibility that other options might be more cost effective, and the questionable morality behind the expropriation of homes and businesses while alternatives sit on the table unexamined.
Dr. Cerise, in arguing for the efficacy of the current LSU proposal, made a shocking an unprecedented admission:
"Nobody's arguing that you can't gut and rebuild Charity Hospital."
In fact, state and LSU officials have maintained consistently that Charity Hospital would not be structurally suitable even if it were to be completely gutted and rebuilt. The assertion that Charity is unusable has been one of the primary arguments used by state and LSU officials to justify the expensive new medical campus, the abandonment of medical district infrastructure in Downtown New Orleans, the morally perilous expropriation of private property in Lower Mid-City, and the years of healthcare deprivation suffered by New Orleans residents. Dr. Cerise's admission offered additional justification to those that have been pushing for state leadership to finally examine alternatives that might restore healthcare to New Orleanians and jobs to the New Orleans biomedical industry in less time and at a lower cost to taxpayers.
The motion, offered by State Senator Jack Donahue (R - Mandeville) would also require an independent evaluation of the business model guiding LSU's ability to repay the loans it needs to pay for the construction of the proposed Lower Mid-City facility.
Though there is more work to do to make certain that state leaders move forward quickly with the new study and ensure that the analysis is truly independent of interested parties, today's vote represents a monumental victory for advocates of Charity Hospital and the rights of residents and business owners in Lower Mid-City.