Mayor Mitch Landrieu was joined by fellow council members and community leaders this afternoon to announce a new plan to open an 80-bed hospital in New Orleans East by the fall of 2013. The mayor will also station two ambulances, at the junctions of I-10 and Read Boulevard and I-10 and Crowder Boulevard, to supply emergency services to the residents of the district in the interim — "it is shameful that more than 80,000 residents in New Orleans East, the 9th Ward and parts of Gentilly still ahve to drive up to 30 minutes to an emergency room," he said.
Mayor Landrieu makes his announcement at city hall this afternoon.
Landrieu plans to buy Methodist Memorial Hospital for $16.25 million, saving $23.75 million on the original price suggested by former Mayor Ray Nagin's administration. "I did not see the need to pay the price that the prior administration was going to pay," said Landrieu.
Landrieu plans to buy just one building at the site, instead of the three planned by his predecessor. That means retaining $160,000 a year in tax revenue, and saving $270,000 a year in property maintenance costs. Full details of the deal, and video, after the jump.
Just in case journalists didn't catch all the figures, the mayor's staff had posted this financial comparison on a board next to the podium. Nagin's deal was dubbed the "old deal," while Landrieu's was named after the new mayor. Landrieu did mention Mayor Nagin by name, once, during his speech, however.
"This was a bad deal," said City Attorney Nanette Jolivette-Brown, of the Nagin administration's proposal. "We were paying too much money and we were buying buildings that we didn't need."
Asked why build another hospital in New Orleans when so many others are failing to make any money, the mayor said "we have to find a need to deliver health care to the people in New Orleans East," adding that he is optimistic that the health care industry will become profitable again in New Orleans under the reforms proposed by President Barack Obama — "we are living under Obamacare," he said, with Republican Congressman Anh "Joseph" Cao standing immediately to his right, and Cao's likely Democratic congressional challenger Cedric Richmond standing immediately behind him.
Cao showed no visible reaction to the "Obamacare" statement, despite having drawn fire for voting against the reforms, which would benefit many people in his district, even after the administration structured the bill to avoid paying for abortions, as he had asked. Meanwhile Richmond, who has been running his campaign on a "Say it ain't so, Joe" platform, didn't visibly acknowledge Landrieu's statement, either, although Cao and Richmond maintained a frosty distance throughout the press conference.
The mayor was also joined this morning by members of his Hospital Service District A board, who will manage the project over the coming years. The new hospital will be paid for with a loan backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and it's possible that the city and state may have to kick in some money, too, Landrieu said. The mayor is also in negotiations with a "non-profit healthcare provider" to run the hospital, he said.