After Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, medical staff of the Charity Hospital in New Orleans worked in tents, an abandoned department store, and eventually, a cramped temporary hospital with limited services, but they continued to care for uninsured and poor patients, who are often turned away by other hospitals.
Almost a decade after the devastating storm, the medical staff finally moved to a new facility on Saturday. The $1.1 billion hospital, University Medical Center (UMC) New Orleans, was largely built on federal disaster funds and run by a private operator albeit under state contract.
Although UMC is taking the place of Charity Hospital as the main trauma and safety-net medical facility in the city, it also offers high-end specialty care to privately insured patients.
"In addition to being equipped with the latest technology, UMC New Orleans is a start-of-the-art facility and provides us with the space and resources to continue providing quality healthcare to all that need it," said UMC New Orleans CEO Cindy Nuesslein. "This environment will allow us and our partners to continue training the next generation of healthcare professionals, discovering new treatments through research and caring for our community for many years to come."
The 2.3 million square-foot complex situated at 2000 Canal Street has three patient towers with a 446-bed capacity, 19 operation rooms and an Emergency department featuring 56 exam rooms, five trauma rooms and nine acute treatment rooms.
The hospital was also designed and built keeping in mind the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. The critical areas are all situated at least 21 feet above base flood elevation. The facility also features emergency backup power and storm-resistant technology, which will enable it to withstand the impact of a major hurricane.
"Finally, the quality of care we provide is going to match our physical space," said emergency department physician Jennifer Avegno. "We have never treated our indigent patients as second-class citizens, but in such a rundown building it was easy for them to think, 'These people don't really care much about what they're doing.'"
Unlike Charity, where many of those who live in New Orleans were born, the new hospital will not deliver babies. The service will be delivered by another hospital, Touro Infirmary, which is run by UMC's private nonprofit operator, LCMC Health. The new facility has started serving patients on Aug. 1.