Notes from New Orleans: Preservation Advocates Barred from Charity Hospital Tour

Posted on: December 4th, 2008 by Walter Gallas

On Tuesday, we learned that LSU is going to desperate lengths to control information and prevent a transparent airing of facts about Charity Hospital. A state legislative sub-committee scheduled a tour of the historic building this week, a development which gave us hope that the legislature would grapple head-on with the question of financing for a public health care and medical education facility for New Orleans.

Our hopes rested on the presumption that the legislators, on their tour, would have the benefit not only of hearing LSU's side of the story about the condition of the long-shuttered hospital, but that they would also hear from a representative of RMJM HIllier, which had made its own extensive study of the Charity building. Released in August, the Hillier study was commissioned by the Foundation for Historical Louisiana at the direction of the state legislature through a resolution passed unanimously in 2006. The study concluded that the Charity building is eminently suited to support a 21st-century hospital within its sturdy shell, at a cost savings of 22% and at least two years faster than building a new hospital on the Mid-City site. These findings cast serious doubt on the decision announced by LSU on November 25 to build a new hospital, and thus the study has been the target of repeated attempts by LSU and other state officials to discredit or minimize it.

Tuesday's action -- LSU spokesman Charles Zewe vociferously objecting to the presence of the Foundation for Historical Louisiana and RMJM Hillier, and preventing their participation in the tour -- seemed a desperate act. Later that evening, Governor Bobby Jindal, when asked whether the public and media ought be to able to get inside the Charity Hospital building to see it for themselves, said, yes, he agreed -- and would talk to LSU. We hope the state's chief executive does not need LSU's OK to make this decision final.

Local television coverage of this development can be found here.

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Take action now -- write to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and other decision-makers and ask them to save Charity Hospital and its surrounding neighborhood.

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