Pile drivers have started work on the new $1.1 billion University Medical Center that is to replace Katrina-marred Charity Hospital, which hasn’t been in use since 2005.
Ground was broken on the 424-bed UMC in April 2011, but work was delayed by several months, thanks to such unexpected circumstances as the relocation of the 133-year-old McDonogh No. 11 school building from the site at the request of city officials. Wicking moisture out of the ground also pushed back the start of construction, as 83,000 wicks have to be inserted into the ground and a total of 300,000 cubic yards of sand have to be dumped on the surface, so that the projected 30 inches of subsidence that would occur in the first year after completion would be fast-tracked into a time-frame of a few months.
According to a New Orleans City Business report, demolition has been completed on 235 of the necessary 244 parcels. However, demolition of the Grand Palace Hotel was postponed until hazardous materials, such as asbestos, are removed from the structure.
Despite these delays, officials are still hoping to complete the project in time and without going over the budget, composed of state and federal funds, including $300.6 million in state capital outlay dollars and $435.3 million in FEMA funds.
UMC’s future treatment areas are planned to maximize collaboration with the nearby Veterans Affairs Medical Center, a $1 billion care center that is also under construction. The combined UMC and VA medical centers are expected to generate an annual $1.3 billion economic impact and create more than 19,700 permanent jobs in the New Orleans area.
UMC will be able to withstand a category three hurricane and function as long as a week without outside support, due to features such as redundant primary power and emergency electrical back-up power, as well as an elevation of 20 feet above sea level.
Upon completion, UMC will be the only level 1 trauma center in South Louisiana and will offer inpatient services, outpatient surgery, and imaging and rehabilitation services. It will also host a cancer program including radiation therapy and a chemotherapy clinic. It will serve as an academic anchor for Louisiana State University, Tulane, Dillard, Xavier and SUNO Delgado.
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