What: Healthcare Access Now!: Reopen Charity Hospital
When: Thursday, June 8th, 2006 1 PM
Where: In front of Charity Hospital (on Tulane Avenue)
Who: Advocates for Louisiana Public Healthcare (ALPH)
People's Hurricane Relief Fund Healthcare Committee
NAACP, New Orleans Chapter
Doctors Without Hospitals
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 504-376-3246
more info: http://www.charityhospital.org http://www.katrinaaction.org
Join hurricane survivors, doctors, and advocates demanding that LSU and the state of Louisiana:
1) Repair, reopen, and fund Charity Hospital immediately--before the anniversary of Katrina.
2) Facilitate an independent analysis of the Charity Hospital building immediately.
3) Hold a public forum in New Orleans about Charity and healthcare access in New Orleans.
Background on the Healthcare Crisis
Since the closing of Charity, New Orleans has experienced an urgent healthcare crisis.
After the storm, doctors, military personnel and engineers reentered Charity, pumped out the floodwater from the basement and cleaned and decontaminated patient care areas for the hospital to be reopened, only to be ordered out by LSU officials. The building has been closed and guarded ever since. Some of the doctors and engineers involved in the clean-up say that Charity Hospital could be reopened—at least in part—in just weeks with minimal repair. Just next door, Tulane Hospital—which received floodwaters in its emergency room— reopened in February.
Without the specialized treatment they received at Charity, thousands of New Orleanians cannot return. Charity’s chemotherapy patients must now travel to Independence, LA., which is over an hour away.
Those who have returned to the city find an overstrained private system that cannot accommodate them. Dr. Karen Desalvo, chief of general internal medicine at the Tulane University School of Medicine, estimates that heart attack cases have increased about 25 percent since the storm. She attributes this rise to lack of preventive care— care that many people would have received at Charity. “There is no way people are not dying,” as a result of lack of access to care, she said.
Mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and a rising rate of suicide are urgent public health issues in New Orleans. There are insufficient health facilities and care providers to deal with the current mental health crisis. The mental health facility at Charity Hospital is now closed.
In addition, workers who have come to rebuild the city find that they must risk life and limb with a limited healthcare safety net, which requires them to travel to Baton Rouge and points further if they sustain serious injury.
A Privatized System Will Hurt New Orleans and the Healthcare System
LSU Health Care Services-New Orleans Chancellor Larry Hollier told the Louisiana House Appropriations Committee it would take six years to build a charity hospital in New Orleans. "So we have to place residents in private hospitals regionally for a long time."
Placing uninsured patients in private care compromises access to care, as Dr. Desalvo and others have illustrated. It also undermines the entire system of medical professional education in the city and state, while costing the state more in the long run.
In recent hearings Senator Joe McPherson (D-Woodworth) said the state could end up with higher costs in the future if LSU follows through with a plan to contract with private hospitals for the doctor residency programs previously hosted by the Charity Hospital System.
Letting the private sector take over the university's residency programs would take away a cost efficient workforce from charity hospitals, while costing them federal Medicaid financing, McPherson said.