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New VA Center Key to Downtown Medical District

July 10, 2007

Suzanne Johnson

The message heard at the Supreme Court Building in downtown New Orleans on Monday (July 9) was clear: the Veterans Administration Medical Center belongs in the city's downtown medical district.


The future of a Veterans Administration hospital as part of the downtown medical district was discussed by a House Committee on Veterans Affairs subcommittee in New Orleans on Monday. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

A subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans Affairs held a field hearing on Monday concerning VA health care in south Louisiana.

Among those testifying before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations was Alan Miller, interim senior vice president for health sciences at Tulane.

The Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System's 354-bed acute care facility in downtown New Orleans was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, and discussions have been ongoing about how and where to rebuild the facility.

Miller stressed that the location of the new facility back in the downtown medical district is important for the Veterans Administration, for medical education in New Orleans, and for the future of the city's growth in the biosciences.

"Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Tulane University provided approximately 70 percent of the patient care at the VA, with more than 75 Tulane faculty physicians serving joint appointments with the VA in many medical, surgical and psychiatric sub-specialties and advanced clinical services," Miller said.

Before Katrina, he said, the VA Medical Center and Hospital in New Orleans also provided training for approximately 140 medical residents, 120 of whom were from Tulane. "The VA's integration with the health sciences centers at Tulane and LSU provided a critical synergy that was a key strength both for the New Orleans VA and the region's overall healthcare standing," Miller said.

Today, Miller noted, the VA's outpatient clinics have reopened in the New Orleans area, and visits are up to 75 percent of pre-Katrina numbers. "Currently, the VA is supporting an average of 26 Tulane residents per month who are involved in outpatient care," Miller said. "If more VA beds were available, Tulane would increase the number of residents there to 70."

More than 40 Tulane physicians are providing services and training at various VA locations in the area, Miller said. Bringing the VA Hospital back to downtown also is an important element in creating a high-growth biosciences hub in the city, Miller said.

"The synergy generated by Tulane, LSU, the construction of the BioInnovation Center and the Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium building, each within a few city blocks of the other, will create a rich, dynamic teaching and research environment that will rival any in the country. "

A strong VA Medical Center is a crucial component of this burgeoning bioscience hub that will maximize the potential of both the district and of the VA. It is hard to imagine the district without the VA, and the VA being built anywhere but the district."

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000