NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - It's billed as one of the biggest economic engines in New Orleans since the port, but the opening date for University Medical Center has now been pushed back three months.
The governor's proposed budget did not include the money needed to open the new facility, but hospital officials say the delay is due to construction issues.
The sod is in, the lights are on, but when it comes to patients, nobody's home at the city's massive new medical complex, and concern is growing.
"This is top of the list for many of us in the region. We've invested over a billion dollars in a world-class academic medical center, level one trauma center," said state Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans.
University Medical Center was supposed to open in May, but now officials with LCMC, the hospital's manager, say it won't open until Aug. 1.
The announcement comes less than a week after the Jindal administration presented a new budget that didn't include $87 million in additional funding requested by hospital officials to make the move.
For it's part, UMC's operator says that operations at Interim LSU Hospital will continue without interruption. And LCMC says with a project as large and complex as University Medical Center New Orleans, adjustments in timelines are not uncommon. LCMC says the delay is caused by construction issues, but some believe money is the problem.
"It's the same funding they've used to operate the LSU interim hospital, and so I don't think its reasonable to produce these services with the reduced amount of funding," Leger said.
News of a possible delay comes as a big shock to adjoining businesses who have been waiting a long time for the much-anticipated economic boost. Across Tulane Avenue, Anita's Restaurant was hoping to expand it's operating hours in May, when they thought the new hospital would open.
"Hopefully back to 24 hours, which is where we were before Katrina," said manager Dwana Terrance.
Now, they've put those plans - and would-be workers needing jobs - on hold.
Talks to adequately fund the $1.1 billion hospital are ongoing.
"We've got to get it done," Leger said. "It's important to get doctors trained across the state."
But in a state dealing with a more than $1 billion budget deficit, solutions won't be easy. Leger, who sits on the House Health and Welfare Committee, points out that if the hospital doesn't open soon, the state could miss out on a $40 million annual lease payment from LCMC.