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WASHINGTON – In a public event held today in New Orleans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the State of Louisiana jointly announced the selection of adjacent downtown sites for construction of their replacement medical center projects. The two projects, called the VeteransAffairsMedicalCenter and the LouisianaStateUniversityAcademicMedicalCenter, restore greatly needed health care capability lost in New Orleans during flooding after Hurricane Katrina in late August 2005.
“Restoring a full capability medical center for our veterans in New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana is one of the Secretary’s highest priorities,” said Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Gordon H. Mansfield. “Site selection is a key milestone in the project delivery process.”
“VA selected the downtown site because it offers the best solution for our veterans, today and into the future,” Mansfield added. “The site, located within a robust medical district with affiliate health care teaching universities, promotes long term operational synergy and efficiency. The selected site aligns with the City of New Orleans and State of Louisiana Hurricane Katrina recovery and redevelopment plans.”
An agreement between VA and the City of New Orleans obligates the city to acquire the land for the new facility, prepare the site for construction and turn over the site to VA within one year.
“I understand this site selection creates near term impact on the directly affected and surrounding neighborhoods,” Mansfield continued. “We have been working cooperatively with federal, state, city and neighborhood partners to develop a robust package of treatment measures to mitigate the negative impacts and invest in new local opportunities.”
“Constructing this state-of-the-art medical complex near downtown New Orleans follows through on the Administration's commitment to fully support recovery efforts,” he said.
The announcement follows a nearly one-year process of extensive study of site alternatives, including analysis of the potential impacts on the environment and historically significant structures.
“Today is of great significance for the City of New Orleans and for the veterans of the GulfCoast. The announcement by my colleagues at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs brings to closure a collaborative and inclusive process involving Federal, state and local government, as well as stakeholders who determined the location of the new veterans hospital,” said retired Maj. Gen. Douglas O’Dell, federal coordinator for Gulf Coast rebuilding.
“The hospital is a key component of the city’s vision of a revitalized downtown area and a world class medical campus,” O’Dell added. “Further, this decision advances the goal President Bush and Secretary Peake established of better access to quality health care for the needs of current and future veterans,”
Dr. John Lombardi, LSU System President, said that building these hospitals in close proximity to each other assures the future of top quality health care, research, and medical education not only for the New Orleans area but for the entire state for many years to come. “This is a major milestone in constructing these joint academic medical centers that are destined to be models of health care reform for the nation in creating thousands of jobs while delivering cost-efficient medical treatment and disease management,” he said.
New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin, who hosted today’s news conference where the announcement was made, said, “The new VA hospital in downtown New Orleans will provide needed medical care for veterans throughout the region and will serve as a key economic driver for our future. Along with the new LSU hospital, it will serve as the centerpiece of our biomedical district, generating thousands of jobs and enabling our city to compete with communities that are known for their medical services and research.”