After LCMC announced plans last week to buy Tulane Medical Center and move most patient services to other hospitals, interest has grown in details of what the university plans. to do with the 1.4 million square foot New Orleans Health Center and parking lots.
University officials say plans are still being refined, but the 235-bed hospital will become a hub for research and innovation, supporting Tulane’s growing footprint in the downtown area. business.
Over the next two years, LCMC officials plan to move most patient-related services from Tulane Medical Center to two of its other properties: East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie and the nearby University Medical Center.
The building that currently houses the hospital will later be converted into research and teaching space for Tulane medical students and staff. It will house the Center for Brain Health, a surgical training facility and simulation labs. A new nursing program, slated to open in the spring of 2024, will also move into the building and is expected to produce 200 nurses a year, addressing a severe nursing shortage.
University President Michael Fitts said the downtown expansion is part of Tulane’s effort to attract more researchers, increasing medical innovation by linking academic research with medical care while increasing the pipeline of health workers.
The university currently has about 20 buildings downtown and has committed to invest $600 million in the city’s medical district.
“We live in a world where academic medicine has undergone transformation and research has undergone transformation,” Fitts said. “The connection between medical schools and clinical care has become very, very strong.”
Tulane has been working for years to expand its campus in the CBD and has recently signed several long-term leases and renovated existing properties. LCMC’s recent $150 million deal with HCA Healthcare to purchase Downtown Hospital, Tulane Lakeside Hospital in Metairie and Tulane Lakeview Regional Medical Center in Covington is just the latest development. to fit into the university’s expansion plans.
Tulane is at the center of the Charité Hospital renovation, where it will occupy about a third of the former security hospital that was abandoned after Hurricane Katrina. The Art Deco building will house the Tulane School of Public Health, labs and classrooms for the medical school. It will also include the Tulane Innovation Institute, which will help launch new businesses and technologies, and teaching space for the School of Career Advancement.
Occupying 350,000 square feet in the building, Tulane will serve as the anchor for the mixed-use complex which will also include apartments and retail.
The university also signed a long-term lease with the Warwick Hotel, another building vacated by Katrina located across Duncan Plaza from City Hall. The university has transformed the old hotel, now known as Thirteen15, into over 150 apartments for medical students and faculty. Part of the building is rented to Edgar “Dooky” Chase IV, grandson of the late Leah and Dooky Chase, who plans to open a restaurant.
The Hutchinson Building on Tulane Avenue is also being renovated, and the school’s new fitness center and police headquarters are complete.
With access to all six LCMC hospitals, Tulane researchers will have a much larger patient population for research and clinical trials. These hospitals have approximately 1,900 beds. Tulane Lakeside and Lakeview hospitals are adding nearly 300 more.
Tulane has also increased external funding for research by 50% from 2017 to 2021, and plans to increase it an additional 50% over the next four years. The downtown campus will house startups, spin-offs and help new products get to market faster, Fitts said.
Ultimately, the complex will aim to improve the health of the average city dweller, said Dr. Lee Hamm, dean of the Tulane School of Medicine. The state’s health metrics are consistently among the worst in the nation, ranking 50th for health outcomes and behaviors in the latest U.S. Health Rankings report.
“I’m not sure it’s going to be a switch where one day it’s not right and the next day it’s right, but hopefully it will activate a variety of processes that will help that,” Hamm said.
What will move
There will still be patient care at the downtown hospital, Hamm said.
While Tulane’s kidney and liver transplant programs will likely move to East Jefferson, some outpatient clinics may remain on campus, such as cardiology or kidney clinics. Officials did not say whether they planned to close the emergency room, which is the closest emergency facility to the French Quarter. It is also undecided whether the bone marrow transplant program will be moved.
Then there is the issue of the Comprehensive Stroke Center. Tulane Medical Center is one of three hospitals in Louisiana with this designation due to its rapid response to strokes. The majority of strokes in New Orleans are treated there, Hamm said, and the designation does not automatically transfer to other facilities.
To move him to UMC or East Jefferson, the hospital will need to prove they have certain equipment and response times. Other comprehensive stroke centers are in Jefferson Parish at Ochsner Medical Center and West Jefferson Medical Center.
At the heart of all their decisions, Fitts said, will be patient care.
“We were associated with an out-of-state company,” Fitts said. “LCMC is another not-for-profit and very focused on health outcomes in Louisiana. Health outcomes in the state are definitely not what we want them to be. And the goal here is really to marry specialist and community care, clinical research and bedside care in a way that improves outcomes.”
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