Business Organizations Back N.O. Hospitals

NEW ORLEANS — A coalition of business organizations from five New Orleans area parishes is calling for the speedy development of hospitals planned for New Orleans. Today, the organizations released a resolution — spearheaded by the Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region — pushing for accelerated construction of the Veterans Administration Medical Center and a new University Medical Center. The resolution comes as the National Trust for Historic Preservation is challenging the VA project in a lawsuit against the federal government. The National Trust claims the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Federal Emergency Management Agency violated the National Environmental Policy Act by allowing the city to begin the first phase of construction in a historic district before the federal government completed an analysis of the project’s impacts. Plans call for building the medical complex in Mid-City. It would also include a replacement facility for Charity Hospital, which has been shuttered since Hurricane Katrina. Opponents of the project say Charity could be rebuilt quicker and for less money than it would take to build a new hospital. In addition, they say, the medical complex will require the razing of homes to make way for the project. Organizations signing the resolution: The Black Economic Development Council, Greater New Orleans Inc., Greater New Orleans Biosciences Economic Development District, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana, Jefferson Business Council, New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce, Northshore Business Council, Plaquemines Association of Business and Industry and St. Bernard Chamber of Commerce. The resolution says the projects will have “enormous economic benefit” on the community and that “access to high quality health care is critical to the attraction, retention and expansion of businesses and a highly qualified work force. “We urge the accelerated development of a fully functioning VAMC and the speedy removal of any and all obstacles to the completion of this project.” Gregory Rusovich, chairman of the Business Council, said the project cannot “get mired in lawsuits and delays. It is too important. “Now is the time to further demonstrate our unity, to rally around what will be the most significant development for our economy and our medical industry. Now is the time to accelerate progress.” GNO Inc. CEO Michael Hecht said the project will have a “significant impact on the region and the entire state,” not just New Orleans. Alden McDonald, a member of the Black Economic Development Council, said there is “widespread and diverse support” for the project. This unified coalition of business organizations proves that. This is all about the potential of 6,000 high paying jobs for our community.”