Proponents of reopening Charity Hospital say the state should use a $474.7 million storm-damage award from a federal arbitration panel to reopen the iconic facility even though Gov. Bobby Jindal and LSU say the money will be used to build a $1.2 billion teaching hospital. "We always wanted the money that was rightly due the state," said Sandra Stokes, executive vice chair of preservation-minded Foundation for Historical Louisiana. "We hope now that the money will be used correctly. In our view, [that means] putting a modern hospital in Charity." Reopening Charity would restore much-needed health care services, jobs and a teaching hospital — faster than LSU's rival plan for a new teaching hospital, she said: "We could have Charity back up and running in three years. Our fear is that the state and LSU will be caught up in lawsuits for years."
Jacques Morial, co-director of the nonprofit Louisiana Justice Institute and a supporter of reopening Charity, says LSU's proposed teaching hospital is still $500 million short. "They have to develop a business plan and they have to go to Wall Street to get it financed," Morial says. "In today's economy and with credit markets tight, that's not going to be easy."
Officials at the state Office of Facility Planning & Control, which owns Charity, have long dismissed the claims of Charity proponents as uninformed. Stokes says she now wants the state Legislature to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of competing plans for Charity hospital — a recommendation of Gov. Jindal's Streamlining Commission and state Treasurer John Kennedy. — Johnson