Metro New Orleans had 23 hospitals before Hurricane Katrina. Five years later, the city has twelve, and seeing a health care provider often requires long drives and long waits. Charity Hospital, which served the city’s poor and uninsured, has been shuttered since the flood.
Four years ago, state and city officials decided not to reopen Charity and instead build a new $1.4 billion state of the art medical complex, called University Medical Center, on a 70 acre site near downtown. While FEMA and the state will provide nearly $800 million for the project, the rest is being raised with a bond issue which has yet to take place. The governing board for UMC Hospital Corporation met for the first time last month. Ground breaking is scheduled for December, but the new complex is expected to open no earlier than 2014.
Since the flood, many patients who went to Charity Hospital are being served by nearby LSU Public Hospital, which has half of the 550 beds it had before Katrina. A number of new community clinics have also opened in underserved neighborhoods, funded in part from $2.7 billion in federal Gulf Coast recovery funding allotted for health and human services.
Elsewhere, construction has started downtown on a new VA medical facility, and this month Mayor Landrieu authorized the city to pay $16.25 million for the former Methodist Hospital in eastern New Orleans. The redeveloped hospital will serve more than 80,000 local residents who now have to drive 30 minutes to reach a hospital.