The New Orleans-area system of primary care clinics for the poor and underinsured will receive an $8.3 million infusion as part of the settlement in a long-running class-action liability suit against health-care and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson. Under an order by U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon, Daughters of Charity will receive $1 million toward construction of a permanent primary-care clinic on the old Methodist Hospital campus on Read Boulevard in eastern New Orleans.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration noted that the disbursement will target the 9th Ward and eastern New Orleans, areas that have endured a dearth of health care services since Hurricane Katrina, though providers around the city and in neighboring parishes will be eligible for a cut.

“This charitable health care fund brings us one step closer to building a full-service hospital in New Orleans East and will also provide health care for those who are underserved in our community,” Landrieu said.

Daughters of Charity and the Landrieu administration announced in January that the Catholic health-care enterprise would partner with the state-chartered Orleans Parish Hospital Service District A to run a primary care clinic on the old Methodist campus. Separately, the hospital service district plans to redevelop the Methodist building into an 80-bed community hospital. Landrieu, who has assumed strong influence over the district board, has promised the hospital will open by the end of 2013.

At the time the partnership was announced, Daughters of Charity committed to a capital investment of $2 million. Court filings note that the district also has committed $2 million, allowing for a total of $5 million for construction of a 15,000-square-foot clinic independent from whatever becomes of the hospital building.

The district already has opened an urgent-care center in an existing building, and Daughters of Charity is slated to run a primary clinic in the same structure as the district develops a long-term plan for new construction. The court plan repeats the district’s promise that the facility can open 18 months from “the date this funding is secured.”

Bill Barrow, The Times-Picayune 

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