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Jacques Morial

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Replacement hospital in New Orleans raises equity issues



Beautiful New Orleans: The Big Easy and the Big Trouble.

State-owned and  Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Charity Hospital, in New Orleans, has been replaced with an institution with a very different name — University Medical Center New Orleans.

The New York Times reports:”Built largely with federal disaster funds, and run by a private operator under contract with the state, the hospital is being held up as the centerpiece of a much-improved health care system for the poor here.”

“But while University Medical Center is taking Charity’s place as the city’s main trauma and safety-net hospital, its ambitions go far beyond that, to providing high-end specialty care to privately insured patients from around the state and beyond. For that and other reasons, concerns that began when the state shuttered Charity immediately after Katrina — unnecessarily, critics still say — persist.

“There is a perception that U.M.C. wasn’t built for the population that Charity served,” Jacques Morial, a community organizer whose father and brother are former New Orleans mayors, and who helped lead a lawsuit over Charity’s closing, told The Times. “That’s because there’s been no urgency to either replace what Charity represented or rebuild the trust that those who relied on Charity had in it.”

“At the same time, dozens of new community clinics have opened, providing desperately needed primary and mental health care outside the hospital setting. The clinics occupy 60 sites in Greater New Orleans today, compared with a handful in 2004, largely due to federal funds awarded after Hurricane Katrina. Many poor adults get free primary and mental health care at these clinics under a temporary Medicaid waiver program that began here after the hurricane….”

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