[StBernard] St. Bernard Parish condemns its only hospital

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Nov 7 21:39:53 EST 2006

St. Bernard Parish condemns its only hospital

CHALMETTE, La. -- The Chalmette Medical Center, closed since hurricane
Katrina and the only hospital in St. Bernard Parish has been condemned.

The building, which was flooded following the Aug. 29, 2005 storm, may be
torn down. Hospital officials have asked for a delay so workers can remove
confidential medical records and medical waste still in the facility.

Parish Chief Administrative Officer Dave Peralta said he would not grant
Universal Health Services Inc., the hospital's parent company, any more
extensions although he said if they continue to clean the property, there
probably would not be any punitive action taken.

Martin Landrieu, an attorney for the hospital, wrote to Parish Community
Development Director Gina Hayes on Oct. 27 asking for an extension and
explaining the company's cleanup plans.

Hayes said under parish law, she granted the maximum extension of 10 days.

In his correspondence with the parish regarding the condemnation of the
hospital and the neighboring medical office building, also owned by
Universal Health Services, Landrieu said the company has kept the buildings
safe and maintained by boarding them up, erecting fencing and establishing
around-the-clock security.

The company would prefer to clean and demolish the site because there are
certain requirements regarding confidential medical documents and medical
waste, the attorney said. Universal Health and Chalmette Medical have
received bids for removing the waste and records and for the demolition, he

Crews in protective gear were going in and out of the hospital building this
week. As of Friday afternoon, there were piles of computers and other
damaged equipment outside the hospital.

The council and other parish officials have been highly critical of the
hospital, citing the way it handled its patient evacuation and blasting it
for refusing to return as a viable business until the parish's population

At a meeting in November 2005, parish officials said they didn't want
Chalmette Medical to return. Hospital officials at the meeting defended
their actions and said they saved many lives and evacuated after the storm
when it was possible.

Now parish officials are questioning why it would take so long for a big
business to clean its property.

"I'm disappointed that it took them 14 months to address the building,"
Councilman Craig Taffaro said. "That underscores their lack of commitment to
return to the community."

Hayes said the hospital was one of about 3,651 buildings the parish
condemned recently because either they were not gutted or not secured.
Condemned properties were stickered with notices that they were up for
involuntary demolition.

Chalmette Medical was licensed for 265 beds and had been in service for 25
years under different owners. It was founded in 1981 as De La Ronde

Since Katrina destroyed that campus, health care in St. Bernard Parish has
been provided through a patchwork of efforts, including some assistance from
the federal government and a group of local doctors that successfully
lobbied two nonprofit health systems to take over the clinic next to the
government complex in Chalmette.


Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.timespicayune.com

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