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Reality Check
Today's reality is that we have a long path ahead when it comes to rebuilding this city. That's why it's imperative that both local and national businesses get involved.

One of the areas that most needs attention is the city's crumbled healthcare infrastructure. The recent news that storm-wrecked hospitals in New Orleans prompted an historic number of LSU medical-school spring graduates to leave Louisiana for residency training is the latest in a string of disappointments for our health-care community.

We must develop a system that can keep and support local talent. Let's start by rebuilding the city's oldest and most beloved health-care provider: The Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans (MCLNO).

Why rebuild the Charity Hospital system? Because we owe it to the thousands of people it serves throughout its network, many of whom have nowhere else to turn. According to a report from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, before Katrina, MCLNO was responsible for 14 percent of the entire city's hospital admissions, 19 percent of its births and 23 percent of all emergency-room visits. Those it served were predominately poor, with 85 percent earning less than $20,000 a year.

We can't bring New Orleans back until we restore and improve its health-care infrastructure.

As a longtime businessperson in this region, health care in New Orleans has become very personal to me. And you better believe it's personal to residents of this city. That's why I'm proud that my company is donating $1 million to MCLNO, which will help rebuild and expand New Orleans' much-needed health network. Through smart planning, commitment, and investment from all businesses, we can begin to create a health-care delivery system, with MCLNO at its heart, that will pump new life into rebuilding this great city. Business must be a part of the solution.

These next six months will be critical to the long-term survival of this region. We've got the motivation, the momentum and the preliminary funding to move ahead.

Let's work together to build a better-than-ever health care system in New Orleans. And let's start with the MCLNO.

Monty Murray
Director, AstraZeneca's S.E. Business Center


Peace in Church, Please

Fear and paranoia. There's enough of it floating around our beleaguered city these days without inventing more out of whole cloth. But the men of the whole cloth -- Fr. Michael Jacques and Fr. William Maestri -- came into our church on Sunday, March 26, and did just that. They came with 10 armed, out-of-uniform police officers and 35 parishioners from St. Peter Claver Parish to consummate their hostile take-over of St. Augustine Church and Parish. They left after silent marchers carried cardboard signs down the aisle expressing support for our church and our pastor-in-exile, Fr. Jerome LeDoux. Maestri said he and Jacques felt threatened when the congregation clapped and sang. Afterwards they made up something about desecration of the altar. But no one went near the altar except them. The archdiosecesan goon squad -- that was the desecration.

Maestri said he feared the demonstrators would break his car windows. Even though this parish is all about peace and love, I do believe he was telling the truth -- that he really does have that fear. Sad for a man of God, when all the angels who pop up to counsel people in the Bible say to fear not.

The angelic advice is sensible, too, because fear can create violence.

Fear and paranoia. They are the devil's tools. And we don't need to be giving the devil an assist these days, especially not in church.

Orissa Arend


Pull Our Weight

What part of "we can't support these freeloaders anymore" do you not understand? ("No Welcome Mat?", Commentary, Feb. 28). You yourself say, "Sure, New Orleans' fragile social, economic and health-care infrastructure can't stand any more stress." But enough of that pesky real-world reality. You are intent on pushing your pie-in-the-sky concept of compassions, to bring back every single public-housing tenant whether they worked before the storm or not, no matter the damage it does to us. People who don't work generally turn to crime to support themselves.

City Council President Oliver Thomas is not at all inconsistent in advocating a return of all parts of the city, without a return of every single resident, if that resident is only looking to consume resources that this city no longer can provide. That is why we need to encourage only self-sufficient working people to return.

Congress will not provide us with any more funding if we plan to restore failed public-housing projects. With only about one-half of 1 percent of the U.S. in this metro area, we can't beg Congress to pay our bills forever. But that's the direction we're headed if we bring back people who want to ride in the wagon instead of help pull it.

Ian Goldberg

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