U.S. Sen. David Vitter to feds: Don’t grant Louisiana more support for charity successor

Date: Apr 11, 2011

U.S. Sen. David Vitter to feds: Don't grant Louisiana more support for charity suceesor

U.S. Sen. David Vitter on Monday intensified his criticism of the state's plans for a Charity Hospital successor, telling the Obama administration in a letter that the federal government should not back any new debt for a project the senator says will become a long-term burden to taxpayers.

Vitter's letter to U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan comes as the University Medical Center governing board continues to pursue mortgage insurance from the agency's program to aid hospital capital investments. The state's ideal plan has long been to sell up to $400 million in bonds – backed by the HUD program – to complete a projected $1.2 billion construction budget.

The senator's position puts him at odds with Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has presided over the creation of the UMC governing board as a state-affiliated entity responsible for managing the hospital once it is built. The state facilities office, also under Jindal's purview, is responsible for constructing the complex.

Vitter told Donovan that he supports the concept of a "modern teaching hospital" in New Orleans. But he called the state's 424-bed complex "extravagant" and "unsustainable," similar to his previous arguments that the project effectively uses public money to encroach heavily into the existing regional health care market. That position generally puts Vitter in line with executives of private and community hospitals in the region, including Ochsner Health System, Tulane Medical Center, East Jefferson General Hospital and West Jefferson Medical Center.

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