NEW ORLEANS -- It is a day many in New Orleans East have anticipated for seven years: the groundbreaking of a new hospital. On Friday, crews worked to demolish part of the old hospital, as city, state and federal leaders gathered for the groundbreaking for a new hospital.
People who live in the area said it is a facility that they have gone too long without, which potentially put them in danger.
"In December, my husband had a heart attack and I had to bring him all the way to Ochsner because there was no hospital facility in this area," said Lydia Leon, a New Orleans East resident.
Hurricane Katrina flooded the former Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital in 2005. It has remained vacant since then.
"When I was running for office a couple of years ago, New Orleans East said if we can only do one thing-- we want to do a lot more, but if we can only do one-- rebuild the hospital," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. "Because not only is it going to provide us health care and health care security, but it's also going to be the economic engine that helps revitalize a very important of New Orleans East."
This past fall, the final piece of the necessary funding came through.
"We got knocked really close to the ground and we're coming back-- all the way back and then some," said City Council Member James Gray, who represents District E.
The $130 million hospital will be built with a combination of local, state and federal funds.
"It's a long time overdue and we have needed it out here for the residents," said Angelo Kingvalsky, who lives in New Orleans East.
Residents in the East said a new hospital is part of what they have been waiting for-- the start of a renaissance for the area they returned to after the storm.
"It's going to bring more jobs," Leon said. "It's going to bring more businesses and, eventually, it's going to eventually people who have not rebuilt their homes, to come back now and rebuild because a hospital is essential."
The hospital is expected to open later this year. When completed, it will have 80 beds, an emergency room and a clinical lab.