Thursday, January 8, 2009

Media Allowed Inside Shuttered Charity

This news report and the accompanying article come from Watch their report here.

Dennis Woltering / Eyewitness News
January 7, 2009

FEMA says it won't pay more than $150 million dollars for Katrina's damage to big charity, but the state argues it deserves full replacement cost -- $492-million dollars because Katrina caused more than 50 percent damage.

One month ago, legislators trying to decide if charity should be gutted and renovated or if a new hospital should be built held a public meeting to tour the place, but the news media were kept out of that public meeting.

Finally Wednesday, after reporters signed liability waivers state officials required because of what they described as dangerous conditions, we were allowed to see the inside of Big Charity.

In the first media tour since January 2005, we got a chance to see the Psychiatric Unit on the 3rd floor, laboratories on the 11th floor and surgical suites on the 12th floor, among other areas.

One the areas legislators saw here on the 12th floor in December the paint was peeling on many of the walls, and in some of the operating suites there were lots of clutter and bags of trash.

Throughout the tour, we saw lots of debris, ceilings that are broken apart, rooms piled with furniture, equipment and boxes. Everywhere, doors were off their hinges, an effort to help ventilation, according to our tour leader, Mark Moses of state Facilities Planning.

“By taking the doors off the hinges we're able to get air throughout the building,” he said.
The stairs were used because officials say they had an electrical problem about two weeks ago they are still trying to fix.

“Entergy took us off-line because they determined that the switch gear was no longer safe for them to connect,” said Robert Arnold, facility director, adding there is water in the basement because without electricity they can't run the sump pumps necessary to keep it dry.
Water was in other places due to pipe leaks.

“For a hospital that’s been abandoned for three years, I would expect to see this,” said Dr. James Moises.

Moises, who was once an emergency physician at Charity, questions why the hospital place can't be renovated.

“I mean these pictures tell it all. This is not a building that is 50 percent damaged,” he said.
Pictures taken at the end of September of 2005 after Moises, some military people and others cleaned the first few floors of the hospital show the condition is worse now.

“And it was not cluttered and dirty like it is now,” he said. “So clearly, either by neglect or intentional neglect, the building is in worse condition now that it was in September of 2005.”

State officials said mold and asbestos make Charity dangerous, but they didn't feel a need to wear breathing masks, which they offered to us. Dr. Moises argues it is not dangerous, just a campaign to get federal money for a new hospital.

“Sure this is clutter. It's like anybody's garage or home that is cluttered,” he said.

Is Big charity structurally sound? Could it be renovated into a state-of-the-art hospital faster and less expensively than a new hospital as critics like Moises believe? Those are questions Governor Jindal and the legislature have to decide.

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