Charity Begins at Home
Roberta Brandes Gratz’s “How Charity Hospital Died” [May 16] is rife with errors, bias and gross distortions of the truth. It appears she made no effort to seek facts that might have compromised her agenda. Despite her claims, Gratz never contacted me or anyone in my office, and I find no evidence that she tried to contact anyone from LSU Health for her story.
Dr. James Moises’ claim that the Interim LSU Public Hospital (ILH) does not provide “urgent and chronic outpatient care” and “reaches a vastly reduced patient population” is wrong. Every service the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans, informally known as Charity Hospital, provided before Hurricane Katrina is available at ILH, including a Level 1 trauma center. Our outpatient services are robust and, in fact, serve a population larger than before Katrina.
Gratz’s statement relying on Lt. Gen. Russell Honoré’s assessment of Charity’s post-Katrina status collapses with the most basic research. General Honoré changed his position on Charity’s condition and said the storm destroyed the hospital, as the Times-Picayune reported on August 24, 2009 (nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2009/08/ fema_dispute_over_charity_hosp.html).
This article (and another, on August 6) discusses the binding arbitration that would determine the extent of damage to Charity, and clearly disproves Gratz’s statement that LSU pressured FEMA to increase its damage estimate from $23 million to $475 million. Does she really think LSU can pressure a federal agency like FEMA to revise its assessment by $452 million?
Allegations by nameless people of sabotage in the hospital are unsubstantiated. No evidence exists that these events occurred.
Gratz’s statement, “In 2004, an entire wing of Charity was converted to private single-patient rooms for non–publicly funded patients” is false.
Gratz mischaracterizes the report from the Public Affairs Research Council, and her allegation that LSU is scheming to abdicate its responsibility to our indigent patients is offensive. The Memorandum of Understanding approved by the LSU board of supervisors and the State of Louisiana, which spells out how the new University Medical Center (UMC) will be run, clearly states that the hospital will maintain its role as a safety net. LSU has always served a dual mission of indigent healthcare and academic training.
A simple review of the February 11, 2009, letter from Jerry Jones, assistant commissioner for the Louisiana division of administration, to James Fannin, chair of the state appropriations committee, would have revealed to Gratz the major problems with the RMJM Hillier study, which she cites to indicate the soundness of Charity Hospital post-Katrina. The letter also lists the public meetings on the Charity replacement held in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, despite State Treasurer John Kennedy’s assertions to the contrary.
Gratz grossly mischaracterizes the area where the UMC will be built. Long before the storm, the area suffered from blight, neglect and abandoned properties. A Louisiana Office of Facility Planning assessment shows that less than a third of the properties in the LSU footprint were in use.