NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - With money now in the state budget to fund the opening of the new state-funded teaching hospital, members of the news media got a sneak peek of the $1.1 billion medical center Wednesday.
University Medical Center New Orleans which includes 2.3 million square feet is slated to open in August.
By state statute the hospital itself is named for local Civil Rights icon, the late Rev. Avery C. Alexander. His name is perched high in the hospital's lobby. The entire medical complex which includes clinics, medical education classrooms and a conference center will be called University Medical Center.
Upon entering the lobby, right away there is a sense that it is not a hospital. A colorful art installation hangs from the ceiling.
Modern chairs, and sofas along with screens that give people in seating areas privacy are scattered throughout.
The hospital's business model includes attracting insured patients, as well as the indigent.
"We're going to design program services for all patients. We think we will become a destination health care center," said Cindy Nuesslein, President and CEO of University Medical Center New Orleans.
There are three patient towers, 446 beds, including 60 dedicated to behavioral health, and the overwhelming majority of the rooms are private; 19 operating rooms, and an emergency department with 56 exam rooms, nine acute treatment rooms and five trauma rooms.
The hospital's five level clinic building includes 277 exam rooms.
Among the facility's signature services is advanced cancer care.
"We have a clinical trials center here," said Nuesslein.
Still, a lot of attention was given to aesthetics. Besides modern furnishings, art work is plentiful.
And outside the hospital, eye-catching artwork sits amid waterways in the courtyards.
"Virtually every place the public, or a family member would walk has a view to the outside," said Mackenzie Skene, a partner in NBBJ Design, the architectural firm for the project.
Windows are abundant in the medical complex. They are designed to stand up to a Category 3 hurricane.
Hurricane hardiness was at the core of the design for the entire structure.
"Old Charity had many of its critical functions in the basement and it was its downfall, this facility, all of our critical functions of 22 feet above the base flood elevation," said Scott Landry, Sr. V.P., for Facilities and Support Service with LCMC Health which is managing the hospital for the state.
"The first floor, this floor that we're standing on is above the Katrina floodline but the second floor is above even a tidal wave, so this whole floor is a sacrificial floor," said Skene.
Also inside the mammoth medical complex is a touch of the old Charity Hospital. In the lobby's floor there is a replica of the gold seal that remains inside the long shuttered Charity Hospital.
"It is an exquisite facility, I think anybody would be comfortable here," said Nuesslein.
She is confident the new hospital will be competitive with other major medical centers in the region.
The new hospital has already employed 2,000 workers.
Some 15,000 workers helped to construct the complex.