University Medical Center Prepares To Open

Jun 18, 2015

The new University Medical Center uses a replica of art displayed Charity Hospital.
Credit Eileen Fleming / WWNO

The University Medical Center is getting ready to open in August. The news media was given a preview of how the billion-dollar hospital is taking shape.

The gleaming, new 2-million-square foot medical center will anchor what city official are banking on becoming a booming biomedical district. The state’s UMC is opening alongside the $1 billion regional Veterans Affairs hospital set to open next year.

The UMC facility is replacing Charity Hospital, an iconic Art Deco structure still shuttered nearby since Hurricane Katrina.

Architect Mackenzie Skene of the Seattle firm NBBJ says the new building is the future of medical care.

“We took more of the spirit of Charity, a facility that would serve all with the best technology and the academic education, the medical education, to do all of those things that Charity set out to do in 1939, to do that in modern terms today.”

The first floor of the new hospital is built above the Katrina flood line. If the whole first floor floods, the rest of the hospital can function without outside help for seven days. It has 446 in-patient beds — almost all in private rooms.

UMC president Cindy Nuesslein says she’s confident state lawmakers will avoid future cuts in health care funding when they see the facility’s economic benefits.

“We’ll be recruiting the best and brightest minds to our city and to our state. I mean, that’s a win-win for everybody," she said.

There are 19 operating rooms, and an emergency department with 56 exam rooms. When fully operational, it will need 3,000 employees.