NEW ORLEANS – The protesters sought to raise the sound of their voices above the rush hour traffic – all part of an effort to reopen Charity Hospital.
It's a plea they hope will reach the ears of elected officials.
"We think that is we're able to mobilize enough people, we will turn the elected officials around," said Derrick Morrison, co-chairman of the Committee to Reopen Charity Hospital, which organized Thursday's protest.
The committee is pushing for the art deco building's renovation and reopening as a hospital.
"Charity could be renovated, totally gutted, just like many of us did with our own homes after Katrina," said committee co-chairman Brad Ott.
To prove its point, the group cites the Hillier report, released by that architectural firm this past summer. It supports the idea of renovating Charity.
However, in an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News, Governor Bobby Jindal said he would rather see a new hospital built.
"I continue to support the fact that we need a modern hospital that's connected to the VA, that's a home for not only patient care, which is absolutely critical, but graduate medical education and cutting-edge research," Jindal said. "The way it was designed so many decades ago is not conducive to what they need to be competitive with the Atlantas, the Floridas, the Houstons, the Birminghams, the others we compete with."
At the rally, just a few hours after the Governor's interview, his statement was met with swift criticism:
"I believe the governor is wrong," said Martha Owen, who attended the rally.
"If the governor studied the Hillier report, the governor wouldn't be saying the things that he's saying," Morrison added.
"This could be re-opened quicker, more efficiently, much cheaper than building new, and you know, Governor Jindal, conservative Governor Jindal – he wants to spend more money and have it go longer?" Ott said.
Yet the governor also said he supports using the Charity Hospital building in some fashion, which would preserve the structure itself.
"It's still a useful structure, so I've charged LSU with saying, 'look, as part of your planning, you also have to come up with a beneficial use for that facility,'" Jindal said, "and the state will support that because it is an absolute treasure."
However, there is still a long way to go before that happens. The state is still in the middle of appealing FEMA's decision to pay only $150 million towards construction of a new hospital.
The governor said the figure should be closer to $500 million. It is a decision that likely won't be made until a new FEMA administrator is appointed.
"Protestors vow not to give up on renovating Charity"
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News