Tomorrow, Wednesday, July 13, the UMC Board will hold its monthly meeting at 1:00 p.m. in the basement of the LSU Interim Hospital. [Agenda attached]
If you attend tomorrow - and sign in 1/2 hour before the meeting, as required - make a public comment demanding that the UMC Board consider a retrofit of Charity Hospital. That option, explored and confirmed in the FHL/RMJM Hillier study, should most definitely be on the table as the board seeks to find a way out of the fiscal mess that it remains stuck in. The governor, after his meeting with Vitter, Tucker, Kennedy, Mayor Landrieu, etc., called upon the UMC Board to study all options. He should be true to his word and demand that the board take an independent look at just that - ALL OPTIONS.
Despite the rhetoric from so many officials that would have believing that the project is marching forward invincibly in Lower Mid-City, just remember the facts. There is no business plan. There is no plan for making up an over $400 million financing gap. There are massive annual state subsidies, ramp up costs, a 100-day cash cushion fund, and legacy debts to be dealt with somehow.
We'll say it again: if restoring healthcare is really the end goal that's driving everyone in this debate, we should be heading back into the existing Charity shell, building a brand new facility inside the limestone exterior. We could start today. The state has the necessary amount of funds in hand to undertake renovation and improvement of the facility. And you'll also recall that building a 250-bed facility in Charity is part of the Kennedy/Tucker/Vitter plan.
On the other side of the scale, the Lower Mid-City site has not even been cleared yet. The Blood Center is set to be forced out of its building, which makes no sense. Buildings are being demolished in parts of the UMC Footprint that won't even be utilized for a structure for years to come - if ever. Contractors have been caught failing to water down demolitions recently, as reported to the LA DEQ. Over 100 lawsuits are grinding on. It's not clear whether the UMC Board is really a public or a private entity - it's a private non-profit corporation...is that a private entity for purposes of state expropriation law?
Why is it so important to take a stand against all this destructive insanity? Because it's coming down the pike in so many other parts of town. The 1,500-acre BioDistrict. The Iberville expansion far beyond its current boundaries. And whatever mega-project du jour that happens to arrive in your neighborhood in coming years. New Orleans needs to be vigilant.
The bottom line for tomorrow's meeting: call on the UMC Board to give full consideration to the FHL plan for Charity Hospital. Tell them to request a presentation on the plan by FHL and the architects involved. The FHL proposal is the most realistic option for proceeding at this point given the fiscal realities in place.
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