Should old Charity be saved?

March 26, 2008 at 1:47 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

A controversy is going on now about the future of Charity Hospital in New Orleans which was put out of commission by Hurricane Katrina. Should it be restored as the new Charity Hospital that is now being planned or demolished and put into the trash heap of history?

We certainly do not recommend the latter. It is a classic structure on the outside and has been a mainstay of the New Orleans skyline for many years.

It was built by Huey Long, our populist governor eight decades ago who was reverred and despised by people all over the country. We would say it is worth keeping just in memory of him if nothing else because it recalls a period in Louisiana history when our governor wanted to make “every man a king.”

Our big Charity did provide many services to the people. It was easy to get to in downtown New Orleans where many of the medical emergencies occurred.

The poor people could go there without the cash needed at other medical institutions. Police could take injured people under arrest there for treatment before taking them to headquarters for interrogation. Rich people many times went there first for emergency treatment because it had the latest in modern facilities and then to the private hospitals for recovery.

The controversy involves the number of beds needed in a restored Charity Hospital that will be operated by LSU and share some facilities with a new hospital being planned by U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs which lost its downtown hospital in Hurricane Katrina. Should it be similar in size to the original or should some charity patients be accomodated in private hospitals with the state paying the bill as is done now?

The latter seems to be the likely outcome since it would help those private hospitals exist and since it would bring emergency services for charity patients to other areas. That would allow a smaller charity facility operated by LSU also as a teaching hospital to replace it downtown.

The question now is what to do with that classic building that people used to gawk at through most of the last century?

Obviously all of those patient rooms cannot be used under the new plans of downsizing. And they say the cost of cleaning the old building and putting it into operable condition would be expensive and we still would not have a modern building.

We’re not sure about that logic. When you start tearing down a structure and rebuilding from scratch, you’re inviting a lot of expenses that wouldn’t exist in remodelling.
And tearing down that structure would leave a hole in the New Orleans skyline that could never be replaced. Sure, there may be a new Trump Tower, but without old Charity, it would never be the same.

We’ll leave the outcome of the controversy up to the state and the medical profession to decide. But please, if you don’t use old Charity as new Charity, don’t tear it down. Many an old structure has been turned into condominiums and other modern-day facilities that served a purpose and became profitable. And then the tour guides can say that is the structure Huey Long built to help make “every man a king.”

View other articles written Allen Lottinger

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