Ground Broken on New Orleans Mega Hospital

New Orleans - With much fanfare ground was broken Monday for the $1.2 Billion LSU teaching and research hospital in Mid City. It is to be called the “University Medical Center,” and is touted as the linchpin for the emerging “Bio Medical District,” in New Orleans. But some people in the area believe the project is hurting their business.

After years of political wrangling, local and state dignitaries turned sound during a ceremonial media event attended by hundreds. ”This particular project will dwarf the consequences of the Superdome and the Convention Center,” heralded Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

The event marked a huge milestone for the long talked about medical facility to replace in part the old Charity Hospital put out of commission after Katrina. ”Those who just want to build old charity again without the vision of a center of excellence will have a short-sighted view,” said Bruce Greenstein, head of the state department of Health and Hospitals. Thousands of jobs are promised early on and in years to come.

“Our immediate goal is probably trying to hire 2,200 new people,” said Jim McNamara of Bio District New Orleans.

LSU officials said the new state of the art medical complex dedicated to healthcare and ground breaking medical research cannot materialize soon enough because the state continues to bleed doctors and other medical professionals. So urgent is the need that they are using hospital renderings to recruit veteran scientists before the facilities are built.

“We’re recruiting department chairs today that are coming with the understanding that they will be doing highly advanced programs in this facility,” said Fred Cerise, M.D., of the LSU Health System. But right around the block from the celebration a shop owner on Tulane Avenue was lamenting what the project is doing to his business. The owner of Ellgee’s Uniforms near the old Charity Hospital said he is being forced to move his business 10 blocks next week.

“It’s quite traumatic as my family will tell you not only business-wise, but psychologically,” said Marshall Gerson, owner of Ellgee’s Uniform Shop. He grew up in the shop and took over ownership 45 years ago. ”It’s like shooting a business that doesn’t need to be shot,” said Gerson. He maintains his land is not needed for the hospital. ”From all indications if I drive by here in five years I will be watching grass grow. I would be glad to give the property to the state of Louisiana when they need, but I don’t believe in this point in time they need it,” stated Gerson.

Gerson said his business and others, as well as some residents have not been compensated fairly for their losses brought on by the hospital project, so he is not ruling out going to court for a remedy. ”Compensation has not been fair at any stretch of the imagination,” said Gerson.

Meanwhile, supporters are pushing ahead.

“It’s taken too long and it’s been too hard and I’m calling on everybody now to redouble their efforts,” said Landrieu. The state has committed $700 million to the project, so the rest of the financing is still not in hand, and plans are still being worked on for the number of beds for the hospital.

Sabrina Wilson, Fox8 News, April 18th 2011

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