Hurricane Katrina was hell on Charity Hospital, but things haven’t improved much since the day it left patients stranded in sweltering, unsanitary conditions with no power and vanishing supplies of water, food and medicine.
Charity was the place where caregivers stored bodies in hallways because the morgue was flooded, and made horrible decisions about patients for whom they could not comfort, let alone care for properly.
It’s been 3 ½ years since Katrina and now the ghost of Charity stands in silence, surrounded by a chain-link fence and barbed wire, boarded up like a set for a B-grade horror movie.
Until the storm, the 70-year old facility had been the go-to place for the city’s poor and uninsured. It was the only Level One trauma center in town and by far the most important site for training new physicians.
But plans to replace the gigantic structure and restore these services are dead in the water. The hang-up according to USA Today, is money.
Louisiana requested $492 million in disaster aid from the federal government. It wants to pick up the balance on a $1.2 billion downtown medical center.
But FEMA contends Charity was neglected and in disrepair before the storm. Disaster aid doesn’t cover that, so it countered $150 million, or $51 million more than what it calculated were the costs of storm-related damage.
Nothing’s going to happen until the stand-off is settled, according to LSU’s general counsel Raymond Lamonica. The dispute is likely headed to court.
Meanwhile, the state is focusing on site-designs and buying land for a new Charity. “That’s going to take a couple of years,” Lamonica said. “Hopefully by then we’ll have our money.”