City leaders tour soon-to-open N.O. East hospital - FOX 8, WVUE, fox8live.com, weather, app, news, saints

City leaders tour soon-to-open N.O. East hospital

NEW ORLEANS - People in New Orleans East should have an 80-bed hospital operating there by mid-summer. And residents said it has been a long time coming.

City leaders toured the construction site Thursday afternoon to check on the progress of the  work at the former Methodist Hospital on Read Boulevard.

New Orleans East residents have been without a hospital since Hurricane Katrina, and they say that has endangered lives in the sprawling community.

"That really put residents in this area in a crucial, bad situation because anybody that needed emergency medical care would have to travel so far," said resident Ricardo La France.

The city purchased the closed hospital for $16 million. It's getting $8.4 million from FEMA and another $15 million from the state's capital outlay budget for rehabilitation of the long-dormant medical facility.

The facility is scheduled to open in July.

"The idea of waking up in the middle of the night and having to go across the high-rise or worse than that, waking up in the middle of the day and having to go over the high-rise to get medical attention is a daunting task - this changes that," said District E City Councilman James Gray, who represents New Orleans East.

"It is critical that this hospital get opened on time, on budget and on schedule," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

City leaders said having the hospital will spur other economic development.

"This is just a first step in a renaissance for New Orleans East," said District D Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

Some people living in New Orleans East believe not having a hospital actually discouraged some residents from returning after Hurricane Katrina.

"I think it probably did, or probably more with elderly people because elderly people would be more in need of medical care," said La France.

La France lives just blocks away from the hospital site in the Coronado Heights subdivision. He said going nearly nine years without a hospital in the community has been nerve-wracking.

"Individuals from down in this area would have to travel to Tulane or, you know, University, Touro or Ochsner, and I mean when someone is in critical need for medical care, that's a long distance," he said.

Many in the community said living there without a hospital has required a lot of courage.

"Thank the Lord that at last we have a hospital in the area," said La France.

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