Ballad of the Corporate Whore

Mar 29, 2008 by

From the T-P:

The Jindal administration’s plans to reassess the details of a proposed $1.2 billion, 484-bed teaching hospital in downtown New Orleans are raising some concerns about the future of the facility designed to replace the city’s hurricane-damaged Charity Hospital.

Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine said this week that he wants to hire outside experts to “challenge the assumptions” in a business model developed last year that said the new hospital would be financially viable.
Levine, who is Gov. Bobby Jindal’s point man on the project that Louisiana State University would build in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, said he is worried that the hospital’s current configuration is too expensive and might not qualify for bond financing.

He did not identify which consultant he plans to use, nor did he lay out a time frame for when the review might be finished. He said the money to pay the consultants would likely come from a $74.5 million financing pool that the Legislature approved last year for land acquisition and design of the hospital.

“I don’t think it’s a lot to ask to make sure that the project makes sense financially,” Levine said, adding that he wants to make sure there is enough money to not just build the hospital, but also to cover its operational expenses over the long haul.

“You’re talking about 1.2 billion dollars. You’re talking about effectively encumbering our state’s safety-net money for 30 years. So I don’t think it’s inappropriate to ask,” Levine said.

But some lawmakers, noting that the original report was commissioned by the state and touted as an independent assessment by a major consulting group, said another review raises questions about the Jindal administration’s commitment to the project.

“There are rumors that this is a delaying tactic,” Sen. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans, said Friday. “We know that LSU is now solidly behind the project, but after the session the governor will be able to make new appointees to the LSU Board (of Supervisors).”

Senate President Joel Chaisson II, D-Destrehan, said he didn’t know the details of Levine’s plans for a review, “but I don’t know how you go against the findings of a reputable consultant.”

Who stands to gain? Just follow the money.


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