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University Hospital Open Again

NEW ORLEANS (11-20-06) - The LSU Health Care Services Division eased the ache of an ailing city when it re-opened in New Orleans its University Hospital. Its new temporary name, per FEMA, is LSU Interim Hospital.

The re-opening, at 2021 Perdido Street, immediately provides eighty-five beds for the highest level of primary and specialty care and top-notch education for students in the health professions.

"The Interim LSU Public Hospital will offer most of the services available at Charity and University hospitals before the storm," said CEO Don Smithburg. "But we still have more work to do for mental health and rehab patients."

LSU HCSD is implementing plans for the provision of first rate medical care for metropolitan New Orleans. In January, LSU will move its Level 1 trauma center from Elmwood Medical Center in Jefferson Parish, where it relocated shortly after Hurricane Katrina, to Interim LSU Public Hospital. This move will add 50 more beds and will re-establish this nationally preeminent trauma center back downtown near the medical schools.

"For our dedicated LSU doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, the return of this updated hospital to service is a singular achievement as we recraft health-care delivery in Louisiana," said Dr. William Jenkins, LSU System president. FEMA will finance the entire $64-million phased re-opening.

This recrafting will give health-care professionals the best technology. The Interim LSU Public Hospital will have two 64-slice CT scanners and a 3T MRI. The hospital will be wireless, and doctors will have access to the electronic file cabinet in any hospital computer. Records will feature vital information, such as a patient's prescribed medications, allergic reactions, and medical history. The critically ill may not be able to tell a physician such crucial information and now won't have to. A few keystrokes will deliver it.

"This electronic storage of information will prevent the extensive loss of medical records that we had because of Katrina," said Dr. Dwayne Thomas, CEO of the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans (MCLNO). The LSU Interim Hospital, which MCLNO operates, is one of eight hospitals in the LSU Health Care Services Division.

The re-opening is the first step of this work in progress. "The hospital will operate as an interim facility until we construct a new academic medical center in New Orleans in partnership with the Depar tment of Veterans Affairs," said Rod West, chair of the LSU Board of Supervisors. "We're doing bigger and better things for our state."

Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, keynote speaker for the November 20th opening-day ceremonies, affirmed that sentiment. "There will be a new university teaching hospital in this region," she said. "I am committed to providing a first-class training environment for the graduate medical education programs of LSU and Tulane."

Engineering studies have determined that the wind and flood damage that Katrina inflicted on the existing VA and Charity hospitals have rendered them inoperable. They will not reopen.

Governor Kathleen Blanco fully supports the collaborative efforts of LSU and the VA to build a new facility. "We have an outstanding opportunity to join the VA medical center in a new state-of-the-art medical center, and it's a chance that we won't let slip away," she said.

The new LSU and VA hospital complex will share infrastructure and will purchase services from each other, such as radiology, rehabilitation, laboratory, and housekeeping, which will result in significant savings for the health care system.

Recognizing that a hospital is more than bricks and mortar, the governor expressed gratitude to those hospital employees who cared for patients during the hurricane and led the audience in applause.

"I thank you for your selflessness," she said, turning to those in attendance. "You put yourselves out there so that others may survive. The re-opening of this hospital is testament of your sacrifice."

Like many in greater New Orleans, some hospital employees lost their homes, and a number have not returned.

Dr. Cathi Fontenot, medical director for the MCLNO, estimates that the hospital needs 900 employees for it to operate 150 beds. It now has 450.

MCLNO is now offering bonuses to employees who recruit new staff members to the hospital. "Employee pay scales have been improved, as have the benefits package," Dr. Thomas said.

Despite the staff shortage, LSU is taking medical care to the neighborhoods. It is opening eight outpatient clinics throughout the city, offering primary care for early intervention. "We need to let people know our plans to expand outpatient primary care to community sites," Dr. Fontenot said.

Despite the staff shortage, LSU is taking medical care to the neighborhoods. It is opening eight outpatient clinics throughout the city, offering primary care for early intervention. "We need to let people know our plans to expand outpatient primary care to community sites," Dr. Fontenot said.

This community outreach offers a cost-effective future for Louisiana health care, and, in the end, prudent fiscal management and excellent health care will benefit all Louisiana citizens.

Some of the speakers

Govenor Blanco

Govenor Blanco

Dr. William Jenkins

Dr. William Jenkins

Don Smithburg

Don Smithburg

Dr. Cathi Fontenot

Dr. Cathi Fontenot

Dr. Dwayne Thomas

Dr. Dwayne Thomas