BATON ROUGE, La. — New Orleans’ two public hospitals should be torn down because the damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina has left them “dangerous, dangerous places,” the head of Louisiana’s charity hospital system said Wednesday.
Charity and University hospitals “were issued their death warrant by Katrina and the cataclysmic floods it spawned,” Donald R. Smithburg told the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors.
“Even before the storms, these old facilities were on the ropes,” he said, noting that Charity was built in the 1930s and University in the 1960s.
LSU officials had been pushing to replace the outdated facilities before the hurricanes hit. Two weeks ago, they went to Washington to plead their case for federal money to build new facilities.
Smithburg, chief executive of the Louisiana State University Health Care Services Division, said floods and winds did more than $340 million in damage at Charity Hospital and $105 million at University Hospital.
“The buildings have unsafe air to breathe, pervasive mold growing, and mechanical systems that were completely destroyed by the storm,” Smithburg said.
The two hospitals treated more than 500,000 patients a year.
Charity is also among hospitals being investigated by the state attorney general because patients died there during the storm. At least 140 elderly patients in New Orleans nursing homes and hospitals died during Katrina or its aftermath.
The attorney general is looking into whether six hospitals and 13 nursing homes mishandled evacuations of patients, abandoned them during Katrina or put them to death to spare them further pain.
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