The federal arbitration process to determine how much FEMA will reimburse the state of Louisiana for the replacement of Charity Hospital has come back with a decision. The state will receive $475 million -- great news for the city -- and removes one of the roadblocks for returning healthcare services to New Orleans.
This money should be used to rebuild, not to destroy. It should be spent now. LSU proposes to sit on this money for years as they try to find some way to finance their costly and destructive Lower Mid-City proposal.
We now have enough funding to gut and rebuild Charity Hospital.
The $475 million from FEMA, combined with the $300 million already allocated for a hospital by the State of Louisiana well exceed the $550 million estimate of rebuilding Charity Hospital by RMJM Hillier. In addition, work can begin inside of 6 months.
LSU can no longer hide behind FEMA as the culprits of delaying healthcare in New Orleans -- LSU is now the only reason we do not see cranes in the sky.
This is good news. The state wildly misrepresented the damages incurred at Charity Hospital, leading to the drawn out appeals process that preceded today's decision. New Orleans badly needs medical facilities, and this decision makes it clear which of the two plans for medical facilities makes the most sense.
One might think that this means that LSU can move forward in haste and break ground on a new medical facility in conjunction with the VA. The truth is, however, that they cannot.
State and LSU officials remain over $400 million short of the $1.2 billion required to complete construction. They say that money will have to be borrowed, though Treasurer John Kennedy and others have insisted that LSU's business model will yield little interest on Wall Street.
A broad coalition of community organizations support the FHL/RMJM alternative plan that would build a new medical facility inside the facade of historic Charity Hospital while allowing the VA to build their new hospital closer to downtown. The alternative plan would save the Lower Mid-City community and cost hundreds of millions of dollars less. With this $475 million in tow, construction on a new medical facility could begin being built now. New Orleans residents wouldn't have to behold themselves to Wall Street or tear down a residential neighborhood just to build the medical facility for which they've spent more than four years waiting.