Limited bus service returning Sunday to parts of New Orleans, Kenner

10:10 p.m.

By Mary Swerczek
Kenner bureau

Regional Transit Authority buses will resume limited service in New Orleans and Kenner on Sunday for the first time since Hurricane Katrina blasted the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29.

The buses, often used by low-wage workers at businesses in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish, are likely to aid stores and restaurants that have reopened in recent weeks but gone begging for employees. Jefferson Transit put its buses back on the street Wednesday on four East Jefferson and six West Jefferson routes.

The RTA’s St. Charles Avenue, General Meyer and Algiers Local bus lines will begin running the same routes they ran before Katrina, RTA spokeswoman Rosalind Blanco Cook said.

“Buses will run every 30 minutes with supervisors monitoring and adjusting the schedules as needed,” Cook said.

The New Orleans buses will run shortened schedules, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week, because of the New Orleans curfew. The last bus each day will start its run before 6 p.m., and at times before 5 p.m., so the route will be finished before the curfew begins.

In Kenner Sunday, RTA will again begin Kenner Loop’s regular schedule. Kenner resident Nella Brainis is eager to see it.

“I’m taking cabs, and for a few days I couldn’t even get a cab,” she said, adding that the bus service is important for employees without transportation. “These folks can’t afford a cab, most of them. How are you going to get restaurant workers?”

Although many of RTA’s buses flooded in Katrina, the agency has enough to begin the limited run, Cook said.

And staffing isn’t a problem, she said. Many bus drivers stayed at RTA’s Canal Street office during the storm and evacuated on the Tuesday after the hurricane for shelter in Baton Rouge, Cook said.

“There’s no problem with getting personnel,” she said.

For more information, check the RTA’s website at www.norta.com or Jefferson Transit’s website at www.jeffersontransit.org

Service sector layoffs announced

5:40 p.m., Friday

By Rebecca Mowbray
and Jaquetta White
Business writers

Some New Orleans-area service sector companies – whose revenue stream is tied to a consuming public that has been largely absent for the past month – began laying off workers Friday.

After Hurricane Katrina, many employers committed to paying their employees for 30 days. Friday marked the end of that period as well as the last day of the month, making it a natural time to cut ties.

The Belle of Orleans riverboat casino, for example, which was heavily damaged by the hurricane, fired its 692 employees.

“We paid them for 30 days, and that’s where we’re at now,” said Gonzalo Hernandez, general manager of the privately owned casino formerly known as Bally’s. “I have no comment.”

Tulane University, the metropolitan area’s largest private employer, on Friday terminated all part-time faculty, part-time staff who did not get benefits, and part-time staff who were hired after May 1 that had been eligible to receive benefits. As of Nov. 1, only staff employees who have been specifically requested to return to work will continue to be paid; others will need to use accrued vacation or sick leave until the university re-opens in January.

Previously, the university had terminated adjunct faculty who didn’t receive benefits and all-but-dissertation graduate students who taught classes as adjuncts.

On a brighter note, Tulane extended pay on Friday through the end of October for research faculty, clinical faculty at the School of Medicine, medical residents and Veterans Administration professors who work part-time at Tulane.

Sept. 30 was also a significant date for 500 full-time employees at the Fair Grounds Race Course and its betting and video poker operations. “We have said we would be paying everyone through the end of September, which is today,” spokeswoman Julie Koenig-Loignon said Friday. Fair Grounds employees will need to start using their vacation and sick days as of today. But Churchill Downs Inc., the owner of the track, may have an update on that policy soon. “We are revisiting that decision on a week-by-week basis,” she said.
Port of New Orleans employees who do not show up to work Monday will have to use their annual leave in order to continue being paid. Of the 318 port workers, 119 have reported to work. Another 33 are expected this week, according to the port’s Web site. Those numbers do not include people employed by the port’s tenants or dockworkers.
At least one port tenant, International Shipholding Inc., has said that it will continue to pay all of its 122 New Orleans employees. They have been moved to temporary offices in Houston, Mandeville and Baton Rouge until the company can move back to New Orleans, said Erik L. Johnsen, the company’s vice president.
Friday was the final pay day for employees at Whole Foods Market locations in New Orleans and Metairie who had not relocated to another store. The company paid workers for two pay periods after the storm -- whether they worked or not -- and offered to pay relocation costs for those who chose to move to another city with a Whole Food store. Company spokesman Scott Simons said only a “few” employees chose not to relocate.
Other companies weren’t able to hang onto their employees that long. Two other grocers paid workers for only one week after the storm.
Winn-Dixie paid employees through Sept. 7 and then placed them on unpaid leave of absence, unless they found work at another Winn-Dixie store, said the company’s spokesman Dennis Wortham.
Likewise, the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co., which owns the Sav-a-Center stores, paid employees for one week after Hurricane Katrina but continues to pay full benefits, company spokesman Glenn Dickson said.
About 775 of Sav-a-Center’s 2,100 employees have been transferred to another store, he said. Many of those who did not transfer were teenagers who likely would not relocate.

The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center’s 360 full-time employees stopped receiving paychecks Sept. 11 unless they were working. The Convention Center’s 250 part-time employees are only paid for the hours they work. Sabrina Written, a spokeswoman for the Convention Center said that some people in sales, human resources, finance, telecommunications, safety and operations have been working, but it’s hard to know how many people that includes.

It’s also likely that many other workers in the New Orleans area have already lost jobs because the economy is made up largely of small businesses, which are less able to withstand the shock of the storm. Many small companies and retailers have been forced to shut down because they have no customers.

But the situation looks brighter for employees at other companies.

Harrah’s New Orleans Casino, which has about 1,900 full-time employees, has committed to paying its workers for 90 days and has waived the payroll deductions for insurance. The Treasure Chest, which hopes to re-open as soon, is paying its employees through the end of October. The Boomtown re-opened Friday.

Many hotels are trying to recall their workers to New Orleans, according to the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association.

“We anticipate that there are going to be some layoffs, but most hotels are trying to get their people back so they can re-open. Many hotels are re-opening on a limited basis with limited staff, but they see the future need (for more employees) as they get closer to full service,” said Bill Langkopp, the group’s executive vice president. “Everybody is anxious to get back in operation.”


Businesses determined to reopen

5:35 p.m., Friday

By KEITH DARCÉ
Business writer

Hoping to jumpstart the region’s economic recovery, executives from more than 100 metropolitan businesses, including a number of major government contractors, promised Friday to return their companies’ operations to pre-Hurricane Katrina
levels.

“We are committed to staying here. I have bayou blood
running in my veins,” said David Guidry, president of
Guico Machine Works Inc., an oil field machine parts
manufacturer in Harvey.

Many of the companies were the first to reopen in the wake of the storm, largely because their businesses aren’t dependent on a local buying population. Many are also looking to fill jobs, in some cases, hundreds of jobs. The announcement Friday came even as some service-sector employers, hit hard in the wake of Katrina because the local customer base they rely on evacuated, began laying off employees.

About 2,700 people have gone back to work at Northrop
Grumman Corp.’s big Navy shipyard in Avondale, and the
plant needs another 2,500 to get back on track with
warship delivery schedules, said George Yount, vice
president of operations at the yard.

Offshore work boat builder and operator Edison
Chouest Offshore will need 400 more workers over the
next 10 months at a new $60 million shipyard being
built by the company in Houma, said Senior Vice
President Laney Chouest.

Help wanted signs along Veterans Boulevard in
Jefferson Parish were almost as plentiful Friday as
business open signs.

But despite all of the good intentions, many
businesses in the New Orleans area are struggling to
re-open or even stay alive.

Many evacuated workers have been hard to track down,
and some have resettled in other communities. The ones
who have come back are having a hard time finding
places to live. Many businesses that lack deep
financial pockets, such as small mom-and-pop shops,
are running out of cash. And some companies might have
to wait months to discover whether their customer base
will return to the area.

Still, the group of executives that gathered Friday
at the Hilton New Orleans Airport in Kenner to sign
the so-called Statement of Commitment voiced
determination to restore their businesses.

“We are growing. We are ready to hire. We want people
to come back to Louisiana,” said Raymond Ranger, vice
president of Jani King New Orleans, a commercial
cleaning franchise business. Already, Jani King has
cleaned schools, hospitals and New Orleans Sewerage
and Water Board pumping stations.

The group was assembled by U.S. Sen. David Vitter,
R-La., who called the one-page statement a “real and
meaningful” start to rebuilding the region’s comatose
economy.

The statement included promises by the signing
companies to continue using Louisiana suppliers and
vendors, and to try to expand local operations or
relocate to Louisiana business from outside the state.

Vitter and several of the executives said finding
places to house returning workers has quickly become
the biggest barrier to restarting business.

“Housing is at the top of the list. It’s an absolute
essential requirement,” the senator said.

Much of the region’s housing stock has been destroyed
or damaged to the point of being uninhabitable, and
parts of New Orleans that sustained less damage remain
closed to residents.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency promised
nearly three weeks ago to begin building temporary
trailer communities for as many as 200,000 people
displaced by the storm, but none have opened yet in
the metropolitan area.

Some companies are finding ways to create their own
housing for workers.

Northrop is housing about 100 workers on an empty
vessel docked at the west Jefferson Parish shipyard,
Yount said. The yard should have housing for another
400 workers by the end of next week, he said.

Jani King is looking at renting unused nursing homes
or college dormitories in the area, Ranger said. “They
have amenities to bring in food service and health
care. We do have options, but we still need federal
help to bring people back,” he said.

Perhaps the most vulnerable businesses are small
shops that can’t survive long without a flow of
revenue from customers, said University of New Orleans
Chancellor and economist Tim Ryan.

Low-interest disaster relief loans are available to
many of those businesses from the federal Small
Business Administration, but the money might not
arrive in time, Vitter said Friday afternoon during a
radio interview.

“Between now and 60 days, you will have a significant
number of small businesses go under or declare
bankruptcy unless something is done,” he said.

Keith Darcé can be reached at kdarce@yahoo.com.

Kenner to waive fees for September's garbage collection

Friday, 5:20 p.m.

Kenner Mayor Phil Capitano on Friday waived September garbage collection fees for residents and businesses.

Capitano issued the executive order eliminating fees one day after he
authorized a New Orleans company to help Waste Management pick up
trash. He said Thursday that Waste Management was too slow in picking up garbage, and that some Kenner residents haven’t gotten their Waste Management cans emptied at all since Hurricane Katrina hit.

The city is paying Ramelli Janitorial Service, Inc. $145 a ton to pick
up garbage in half the city, while Waste Management is expected to
pick up the rest. Capitano said he hopes those costs will be reimbursed by FEMA or by fining Waste Management.

Monthly garbage pickup fees in Kenner are $11.10 for residential, $7.43 for residents over 65 and $15 for businesses.

A Waste Management official responded to Capitano by saying that
starting the second week after the storm, the company began picking up garbage once a week. But, he said, they were thwarted sometimes by unsafe streets.

Vets secretary visits New Orleans

Doug MacCash
Staff writer

Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James Nicholson stood amid a phalanx of flak-jacketed Veterans Administration police on the steps of the New Orleans VA Medical Center on Perdido Street Friday afternoon, concluding a mostly-symbolic visit to the flooded hospital.

Nicholson inspected the vacated building, noting damage to the air conditioning and other vital systems in the once-submerged basement and subbasement. “The building appears to be structurally sound,” he said.

Nicholson congratulated the staff for the heroic evacuation of 221 patients plus 614 members of the staff and their families to VA facilities in Houston, Jackson, Shreveport, Alexandria and Little Rock, without loss of life.

Nicholson predicts that the New Orleans facility will eventually reopen, though he says there’s no tome table for the reoccupation. “It depends on what experts conclude,” he said, noting the need to make the building “bacteria free.”

West Bank fire official announces controlled burn

West Bank bureau

Hoping to soothe frayed nerves and reduce the flurry of 911 calls, a West Bank fire chief is telling the public that the flames and plumes of smoke billowing from along the Harvey Canal are coming from a fire pit used to burn tree and limbs toppled by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The burn site, operated by a private contractor hired by the Army Corps of Engineers, is at 2900 Peters Road, south of Lapalco Boulevard, said Assistant Chief Terry Thibodaux of the Harvey Volunteer Fire Department.

A private contractor is hauling the debris to the site, he said. About 10,000 cubic feet of tree debris is being burned daily in a 100-foot by 100-foot pit, he said.

“The flames are kind of high,” Thibodaux said. “At nighttime, (people)
can see it at a great distance, so we get lots of calls at night.”

The burn site opened Sept. 21, and it is expected to continue there
for at least another month, he said.

The Harvey Volunteer Fire Department has a stationed a truck at the
site and has personnel monitoring the fire, which must be kept at least
900 feet from residential areas, Thibodaux said.

Only tree debris is being burned there, he said.

275 booked with looting in Jeff

5:05 p.m.

By Michelle Hunter
East Jefferson bureau

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office has arrested 275 people on looting charges since Aug. 27, including one man whom a deputy shot after he fired at the officer, Sheriff Harry Lee said in his most expansive accounting to date of Katrina-related crime.

The deputy wounded Larry Falkins, 19, of Westwego during a foot chase in Kenner on Sept. 1, an arrest report said. Falkins had been identified as the
man who had broken into a nearby pawnshop. He allegedly fired a gun at the deputy and missed.

The deputy returned fire and hit Falkins in the arm. But he managed to get away. Authorities later caught up with him at Kenner Regional Medical Center, after he turned up for treatment. Falkins was treated, released and later booked with looting, attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault on an officer.

Lee’s figures exceed those reported by the FBI for looting arrets in New Orleans and Jefferson combined.

In the days just before and well after Katrina ripped the New Orleans region on Aug. 29, Jefferson deputies said recovered many pickup-truckloads of merchandise stolen from Wal-Marts, Walgreen’s drug stores, Radio Shacks,
grocery stores and businesses in the Oakwood Mall, which looters sacked and set afire. Among the booty: digital video disc players, DVDs, compact disc
players, even electric toothbrushes -- “Something that everybody needs during a hurricane when there’s no electricity,” said Capt. Kerry Najolia, deputy
commander of the Sheriff’s Office SWAT team.

Among those booked with looting the Harvey Wal-Mart was Menekia Humphry, 29, of Harvey, who, with her 13-year-old daughter in tow, wheeled out a shopping cart of stolen goods including several Playstation 2 video games, an arrest report said. Also booked with looting that same store were two Sheriff’s Office correctional officers who are accused of taking electronic equipment.

Quite a bit of stolen loot was found in vehicles that also had been stolen, Lee said. So far, 24 vehicles have been reported stolen from East Jefferson car
dealerships, and at least 110 from dealerships in West Jefferson, he said. Deputies have not yet heard from another four West Jefferson dealers.

Even now, some Jefferson dealers are getting calls that cars stolen from their lots have been found all over the Untied States, including several at the
Astrodome in Houston, a major evacuation site for New Orleans area residents, Lee said.

Deputies also arrested more than eight people who bailed out of stolen U.S. Postal Service trucks parked near the West Bank Expressway and Westwood Drive in Marrero, arrest reports said. Inside the trucks, deputies found stolen goods, some with the security tags still attached, as well as lottery tickets, the reports said.

Looters also made their way into several grocery stores. But some thieves bypassed the food aisles and went to the pharmacy.

Shawn Berrigan, 33, of Metairie was arrested on charges of lifting several ottles of prescription drugs from a Sav-A-Center pharmacy, an arrest report said. Deputies found a black garbage bag with narcotics such as hydrocodone and alprazolam.

He was booked Wednesday with eight counts of drug possession with the intent to distribute, looting and pharmacy burglary, the report said.

Katrina took 104 workers, 21 vehicles from Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office

5:01 p.m.

By Michelle Hunter
East Jefferson bureau

Despite losing 104 employees, more than half of them fired for not reporting to Hurricane Katrina duty, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee said this week it’s back to business as usual.

Lee said 61 people were terminated and 43 resigned in the aftermath of Katrina staggering the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29. Most of the losses came in the Gretna jail, where 53 employees were fired and 14 quit. But other departments took a hit, too, including the 911 center, the 1st and 4th patrol districts on the east bank and the traffic division.

“Some didn’t show up at all,” Lee said. “Some felt that their family commitment was more important than reporting to work. I can respect that decision. But they took an oath to serve the people of Jefferson Parish.”

The sheriff is handling personnel matters on case-by-case basis. Lee, who can hire and fire at will, isn’t restricted by the same civil service rules as the New Orleans Police Department.

New Orleans police reported 249 officers AWOL as of Tuesday, out of almost 1,700 on the force. The Sheriff’s Office employed roughly 1,625 people before Katrina.

All non-essential Sheriff’s Office employees have been called back to work, and most deputies have resumed their regular duties, Lee said.

But starting Monday, he is temporarily forming two mobile forces of deputies similar to department’s disbanded Street Crimes Unit to patrol high-crime areas on the east and west banks. Lee said the move was not prompted by any spike in crime but as a precaution for residents returning to the area.

Since Aug. 27, deputies have made 755 arrests, including 275 for looting. Authorities made several arrests for curfew violations as well as drug violations and a handful of drunk-driving cases, arrest reports said.

There was only one homicide reported, in River Ridge in the days just before the storm, Lee said. Other information on the killing was not available Friday.

The Sheriff’s Office managed to keep most of its 1,400-plus fleet of vehicles intact during the storm. Lee had deputies park their vehicles off the ground in covered parking garages.

Nonetheless, 21 cars were destroyed due to flooding, and nine need new engines, Lee said. A single tree toppled by winds damaged five vehicles at the east bank motor pool at 3300 Metairie Road in Metairie.

And the Sheriff’s Office lost a 42-foot patrol after it was struck by a barge and
Pushed into a boat launch in Westwego, Lee said.

Lee’s own office, on the top floor of the Sheriff’s Office headquarters in Harvey, also took a beating. High winds ripped away the roof, soaking most of the
fifth floor.

A similar fate befell the roof at the department’s new Pat F. Taylor Memorial Firing Range, also in Harvey. Repairs are underway.

Lee has a temporary office set up at the training academy, next door to the firing range.


Kenner working for Red Cross distribution site

Friday, 4:58 p.m.

Kenner officials are working with the Red Cross to open a
drive-through assistance center similar to the one in Slidell, location
and date to be announced, city spokeswoman Karen Boudrie said.

She said officials are working to prepare the location and will
announce it after the final decision is made, probably on Monday.

The center could then open Tuesday or Wednesday, Boudrie said.

More details will released when they are available.

Rosary march set in Kenner

5 p.m.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Kenner will hold a rosary march Sunday after the 12:30 p.m. Mass.

The march will begin at the church, 1908 Short St., continue toward the rectory, turn on Corwin Street to Daniel Street and return to the church. Marchers will probably make two passes along the route while saying the rosary.

For details, call the rectory at (504) 464-0361.

Yenni building still closed to the public

Friday, 4:30 p.m.

Jefferson Parish's east bank government building will not re-open to the public on Monday.

Work crews are continuing to clean and and repair the Joseph S. Yenni Building at Elmwood, the parish said Friday.

However, parish employees who were directed to report Monday to the Yenni building should do so and wait for instructions from their supervisors.

Charter Communications establishes hotline

St. Tammany bureau
Charter Communications, which provides cable television service to St. Tammany Parish, announced Friday it has established a “repair hotline” telephone number to update customers on resumption of cable services in areas hit by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The number, 1-888-249-7751, provides recorded information about services in four of the parishes served by Charter plus Marion and Pearl River counties in Miss.

In addition to St. Tammany, information on services in Livingston, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes are available on the hotline, charter spokesman James Laurent Jr. said. He said information on the hotline will be updated on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Charter has restored cable television to about 170,000 of its 200,000 customers in Louisiana and small areas of Mississippi and Arkansas, Laurent said.

Storms have impact on state management areas, hunting seasons

Friday, 3:57 p.m.

By Ed Anderson
Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE – Roughly 60 to 65 percent of the state’s coastal and inland wildlife management areas and refuges were damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but the cost of the damages is not yet known, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries officials said Friday.

Parke Moore, a wildlife biologist and assistant secretary of the agency’s Office of Wildlife, said that about 610,000 acres of state-run refuges and wildlife management areas were impacted by Hurricane Rita, including damage to the the sprawling Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in southwest Louisiana.

Moore said another 400,000 acres were damaged by Hurricane Katrina a month ago. The state has about 1.5 million acres under its wildlife jurisdiction, he said.

The storms also have altered the hunting seasons in several areas of the state.

"Many of the buildings, equipment and infrastructure in these areas have been damaged or destroyed,’’ Moore said. "While the department has not yet been able to survey the habitat damage in many of these areas, it is apparent that significant damage to levees and water control structures has occurred.’’

Moore said that during Rita, the storm surge approached 20 feet in coastal areas of southwest Louisiana, affecting rabbit and white-tailed-deer habitat and the species themselves.

"The impact of the storm surge, flooding and prolonged exposure to saltwater. . .has not yet been evaluated but it is expected to be significant,’’ Moore said. "We will have substantial mortality to wildlife.’’

As a result of the hurricanes’ damages, he said, deer- and rabbit-hunting season scheduled to open Saturday in much of Cameron, Vermilion, Jefferson Davis and Calcasieu parishes will be "closed for several months,’’ said department Secretary Dwight Landreneau.

The only hunting areas open in that area are north of Louisiana. 14 in Cameron Parish, parts of Vermilion and Jefferson Davis parishes south of Louisiana 14 and parts of Calcasieu south of Louisiana 14 and Interstate 10.

Department spokesman Bo Boehringer said the opening of deer, rabbit and squirrel seasons will be delayed a week -- until Oct. 8 -- in Ascension, Livingston, St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes.

Landreneau said water "is slowing receding in this area’’ and hunting should be able to begin in those areas in a week.

Deer and rabbit hunting is closed as of Saturday in Jefferson, Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes south of the Intracoastal waterway, Landreneau said.

"These areas should be reopened for hunting shortly, as soon as the water levels return to normal and the stress to these (wildlife) populations due to flooding is removed,’’ he said.

Statewide, the alligator season, which was to open in early September was pushed back to mid-September and will now close Oct. 13.

Boehringer said hunters should check the precise locations that are opened and closed by accessing the agency’s website at www.wlf.louisiana.gov and clicking on the "What’s New’’ section for information on changes in the 2005-06 hunting season. He said the section will be updated on a regular basis as areas open for hunting.

River Oaks Hospital reopens

River Oaks Hospital, located in Jefferson Parish, will reopen Monday. The 108 bed psychiatric facility is a provider of inpatient mental health services for children, adolescents and adults. In addition to inpatient acute care psychiatric services, River Oaks specializes in trauma treatment under the leadership of Dan Glaser, clinical director.

VA sets up mobile clinics

Associated Press

Anyone displaced by Louisiana's back-to-back hurricanes can get immunizations, prescriptions, and other medical care at five mobile Veterans Affairs clinics around the state.

VA doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and support personnel staff the clinics, but they're open to any hurricane victim, said spokeswoman Jessica Jacobsen in the VA's regional headquarters in Dallas.

"Our first priority, of course, is caring for veterans. But during times of crisis like this we serve humanitarian need," she said.

One clinic will open Oct. 3 in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Lake Charles. The others already are open in Jennings, Hammond, LaPlace and Slidell.

They are open Monday-Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, from 8 a.m. to noon.

Hospitals still closed after Katrina

2:25 p.m., Friday

By Ronette King
and John Pope
Staff writers

Hurricane Katrina closed half of the hospitals in the seven-parish area, including all of those based in New Orleans, and some may not reopen.

Several hospitals – most notably the Charity and University hospital campuses operated by a branch of Louisiana State University – will have to undergo intense structural studies before anyone can even talk about reopening them, said John J. “Jack” Finn, president of the Metropolitan Hospital Council of New Orleans.

Of the approximately 4,000 employees both campuses had before Katrina, about 2,500 haven’t checked in since, spokesman Marvin McGraw said, adding that it isn’t certain whether Charity will reopen.

“It would take pretty close to a miracle for a hospital with a badly damaged electrical and mechanical system (to reopen),” Finn said. “I can’t imagine anyone spending $50 million to $100 million to put it in the condition that it was in before.”
The potential loss of Charity, compounded by the diminished capacity of private health-care providers, is a double whammy for the New Orleans area.

“What we have in New Orleans is the loss of the huge public hospital and the capacity that was relied on for the city’s and the state’s large uninsured population for their care,” said Diane Rowland, executive director at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Plus we have a loss of private-hospital capacity. Even if they reopen, it will take some time to get them back in shape.”

"There's no way I can imagine how other hospitals with reduced capacity and far more limited outpatient capacity can absorb what Charity
was doing if Charity can't reopen.”

Charity, the 66-year-old state-owned colossus on Tulane Avenue, is the principal teaching hospital for Louisiana’s doctors, and it provides
an array of services that poor people would have a difficult time getting elsewhere, Rowland said. Charity also operates the area’s only Level One trauma center, a member of an elite group of hospitals that are equipped to handle the most serious emergencies.

Dr. Vincent Berkley, chief medical officer for Indian Health Service, the federal health program for American Indians and Alaska natives, is leading a U.S. Public Hospital Administration team overseeing the restoration of healthcare in New Orleans. The goal is to rebuild the area’s hospital capacity in an integrated and incremental manner, with hospitals sharing information about the services they are prepared to offer.

In the meantime, disaster medical assistance teams that work with doctors, nurses and pharmacy services to provide urgent medical care to communities without hospitals have been set up. And the emergency medical service systems in Orleans and Jefferson parishes are working together to transport patients to whatever hospitals can accommodate them.

A dozen hospitals in the New Orleans area continue to operate, including Ochsner Clinic Foundation in Jefferson, East Jefferson General Hospital and West Jefferson General Hospital in Marrero. Kenner Regional Medical Center and Touro Infirmary are operating their emergency rooms. And this week Kenner Regional was cleared to reopen some inpatient beds, a spokesman for the hospital’s owner said.

Tulane-Lakeside Hospital in Metairie reopened Friday. Although Lakeside specializes in women’s health, the hospital will offer additional services to help meet the community’s immediate needs, said Jeff Prescott, spokesman for HCA Inc., the hospital’s parent company.

Children’s Hospital has a projected opening date of Oct. 10, depending on the return of city services.

All acute-care hospitals in St. Tammany Parish remain open, including North Shore Regional Medical Center in Slidell, as well as River Parishes
Hospital in LaPlace and St. Charles Parish Hospital in Luling.

As the hospitals work to reopen, hospital administrators must balance the community's need for medical care with their own fiscal health.

"The challenge a hospital CEO faces is how to bring in additional staff when you don't know what the patient load is going to be to provide
work for that staff," Berkley said. "They've got to pay them to be there to work, but at the same time they've got to have work for them to do."

At the same time, hospitals may lose staff members who are unable or unwilling to return to the area.

“Nurses are being hired away because many of them have no homes here and no schools where they can send their children. The human-resources side is not attractive,” Finn said.

Already 5,944 doctors were displaced in the 10 parishes in Louisiana and Mississippi flooded by Katrina. That figure doesn't include doctors
working as administrators or researchers, only those caring for patients. Of those, 4,486 were in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard
parishes, according to Thomas Ricketts, a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill professor who conducted a study on displaced physicians. The study is based on data from the American Medical Association, information on areas that flooded and the locations where doctors practiced.

More than half the displaced doctors were specialists, including 1,292 primary care doctors and 272 obstetricians nad gynecologists. Half of the 1,300 medical
students at Louisiana State University and Tulane moved to other programs, mostly in Baton Rouge and East Texas.

The problem is that many doctors won't come back. For physicians, once they get busy practicing elsewhere, the reasons for not coming back build up, Ricketts said.

Medicine “is a fairly complex, high-order service that requires a great deal of coordination and cooperation among professions,” Ricketts
said.

Doctors need patients, nurses, pharmacies, medical records staff, X-ray technicians and other specialists to support them, he said. “Just having a
doctor open the door does not mean you can provide modern medicine.”

This week Tenet Healthcare notified the approximately 2,400 employees of Memorial and Lindy Boggs medical centers that they would be laid off at the end of
October since it’s clear those hospitals will be closed for at least six months, a company spokesman said. Both lost power and flooded when levees broke after Hurricane Katrina. Workers there are being given the opportunity to apply for work at
Tenet's 67 other hospitals spread through 13 states, said Steve Campanini said.

Both Methodist Hospital and Chalmette Medical Center took on water, and its parent company, UHS Inc., has started surveying the damage. UHS
has 2,800 employees spread among the five New Orleans area hospitals it operates and they are still being paid.

UHS hasn’t decided how long
that will continue, spokesman Nick Ragone said, but the company will continue health insurance benefits for workers at Chalmette and
Methodist through the end of the year, he said.

Ragone said UHS is offering jobs to employees at its 85 hospitals around the country and some have
taken advantage of the offer.

West Bank school and church updates

Archbishop Blenk High School, at 17 Gretna Blvd., Gretna, will reopen on Monday with new school hours from 7 a.m. to 2:55 p.m. Blenk extended the school day by one hour to make up for days missed due to Hurricane Katrina.

Terrytown Academy, at 1503 Carol Sue Ave., Terrytown, will reopen Nov. 1. School hours will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., extending the regular school day by one hour. The school has availability to accept new students in grades pre-kindergarten through eighth.

Visitation of Our Lady Catholic Church, at 3500 Ames Blvd., Marrero, will hold a prayer service for the victims of Hurricane Katrina on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend. For information, call 347-2203.

Life Center Full Gospel Cathedral in Algiers, which was damaged by Hurricane Katrina, will hold weekly Sunday services at 9 a.m. at Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church’s West Bank location, 2100 Ames Blvd., Marrero.

Orleans Parish Prison employees sought

All employees of Orleans Parish Prison are to contact the Louisiana Sheriffs? Pension & Relief Fund Office and identify yourself as an employee of the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff's Office.

Only visit the Pension Office if you wish to pick up a pay check rather than have it mailed to you.

Louisiana Sheriffs' Pension & Relief Fund
1225 Nicholson Drive
Baton Rouge, LA 70802
225-219-0500
800-586-9049 in Louisiana Only
225-219-0521 Fax

The hours are 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The Aug. 31 and Sept. 15 payroll checks are available for pick-up or can be mailed to you. Payment is for earnings through Sept. 2, unless you are currently assigned to duty.

The Sept. 30 paycheck will be available on Oct. 7.


Inmate information available

Family members inquiring about the location of an inmate from Orlean Parish Prison transfer location can call the following numbers for more information:
225-342-5935 or 225-342-3998.

For Bond amounts, call the Bond Clerk of the Office of the Clerk of
Orleans Parish Criminal Court at 225-326-6158.

Those offenders under probation or parole supervision who were forced
to evacuate due to Hurricane Katrina are asked to check-in with the
Department immediately: 1-800-869-2909 or 225-342-0921; 225-342-0923, or 225-342-0933.

FEMA outlines inspection procedure for those who can't return to their homes

Residents who apply for aid but who cannot return home for inspections can still have their home inspected, FEMA said in a news release Friday.

Applicants will be contacted by inspectors contracted by the FEMA to set up an inspection date and time. If unable to meet an inspector at their damaged homes, applicants can identify an “authorized agent” who can be present during the inspection, such as a trusted neighbor or relative.

The FEMA inspector will fax an “Applicant Authorized Agent release form” to be signed and returned by fax before the inspection can occur. If the applicant does not have someone in the area that can be the authorized agent, the inspector can offer an authorized agent who is a FEMA employee that represents the interests of the applicant.

The inspector will fax the release form to the applicant to be signed and returned to the inspector by fax.

All applicants must provide proof that they occupy the residence, and homeowners who apply for aid will be required to verify ownership; this information should be provided by fax to the FEMA-contracted inspector before the inspection is scheduled.

If the dwelling is not locked, the inspector can enter to perform a complete inspection. If unable to enter, because the home locked or unsafe to enter, the inspector will do an “Exterior Inspection”; personal property will be visually verified through windows where possible.

Jefferson's First and Second Parish Court to re-open Monday

First Parish Court and Second Parish Court of Jefferson Parish will re-open Monday, Oct. 3, as will the Marriage License/Passport Department, and Juvenile Court, according to the Clerk of Court's website.
First Parish Court is at 924 David Drive, Metairie, LA 70003, (504) 736-8900.
Second Parish Court is at 100 Huey P. Long Ave., Gretna, LA 70053, (504) 364-2800.
The parish's 24th Judicial District Court, the East Bank Satellite Office (re-located temporarily to the First Parish Court on David Drive), and the Mortgage & Conveyance/UCC offices are scheduled to reopen Oct. 11.
For more information, go to www.jpclerkofcourt.us
Normal court hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

La. death toll now at 929

Friday, 11:57 a.m.

State officials said Friday that the number of people who died in connection with Hurricane Katrina now stands at 929.

Of those, 740 are at the morgue in St. Gabriel.

Other bodies are being stored at parish coroner's offices across south Louisiana.

Ascension – 9
Assumption – 2
East Baton Rouge – 72
Iberia – 6
Jefferson – 30
Lafourche – 2
Livingston – 5
Plaquemines – 3
St. Charles – 8
St. Tammany – 7
Tangipahoa – 26
Terrebonne -- 16
West Baton Rouge – 3

Red Cross opens financial aid sites in Baton Rouge area

Friday, 2:36 p.m.

The American Red Cross has opened two Baton Rouge-area sites where it will distribute emergency financial assistance to those affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

But the agency says people should expect long lines at the sites, the Bellemont Great Hall at 7370 Airline Highway and the North Park Recreation Center, 30372 Eden Church Road, in Denham Springs.

Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. But the lines could be cut off earlier if they grow too long. The North Park Center will be closed tomorrow.

The sites will remain open at least 30 days.

Recipients must provide proof of residency. Eligible parishes include Assumption, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis, Iberia, Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Washington, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne and Vermillion.

Financial help depends on family size — one person, $360; two, $665; three, $965; four, $1,265; five, $1,565.

Those seeking financial assistance do not have to register with the Red Cross before going to the distribution centers.

Red Cross distribution set for West Jefferson Medical Center

Friday, 11:30 a.m.

The American Red Cross will distribute emergency financial aid to hurricane victims Saturday, Sunday and Monday at West Jefferson Medical Center.

The distribution will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day in the atrium of the hospital, 1101 Medical Center Blvd., Marrero. The Red Cross can process approximately 1,000 people per day, and the National Guard, which will provide security for the distribution, will limit the line to 1,000 people, said Jennifer Steel, the hospital’s chief community relations officer.

The distribution is for hurricane victims who lived in zip codes hardest hit by the storm and who have not yet received Red Cross financial assistance.

The Red Cross requests people bring proof of identification and address prior to Hurricane Katrina.

Odds and ends from the Jefferson Parish school district

Friday, 11:30 a.m.

In addition to the registration of students this week
and a planned reopening of schools Monday, there's a
another sign that things are inching back to normal in
the Jefferson Parish public school system: the return
of weekend football.

At a School Board meeting Thursday, two games were
announced: John Ehret will square off against L.W. Higgins
Saturday at 7 p.m. at Hoss Memtsas Stadium. And at 2
p.m. Saturday, West Jefferson High School will host
Slidell’s Salmen High School.

The first 100 tickets to
the West Jefferson game are being paid for by School
Board member Mark Morgan, whose district includes the
school.

In other board business, the board:

- Moved a records day scheduled for Jan. 17
to Feb 3, and a staff development day
scheduled for Jan. 18 is now Jan. 17.

- Will ask the state for a waiver so the system
does not have to offer "school choice" to students in
low-performing schools. Fifteen schools had to offer
that option this year under the state's accountability
system, and about 500 students requested the shift.

As of Wednesday, the system had registered about
1,200 new or relocated students. On average, the
system is picking up 600 students daily.

At least temporarily, students do not have to wear
their uniforms to school. They will receive free
breakfast and lunch. The system is trying to secure
free meals and temporary housing for its teachers as
well.

Some board members complained that the district's contracted
garbage cleanup company, Waste Management, is not
clearing debris near schools quickly enough, which
could hinder some reopenings Monday.

The board also heard that only 50 percent of child nutrition workers and 47
percent of bus drivers have reported back to work. The
system has started talks with a private transportation
company.

Archdiocese of N.O. employees urged to contact supervisors

The Archdiocese of New Orleans is asking all employees of its parishes, schools and offices -- including Christopher Homes, Catholic Charities, Catholic Schools, Wynhoven Healthcare, Chateau de Notre Dame, School Food Services, Second Harvest, PACE, Cemeteries and the Clarion Herald -- to report their location and availability to report to work at 1-888-366-5024 or directly to their supervisor on or before Monday, October 3, 2005.
Employees who don't report in by Monday will be laid off with no severance pay, the archdiocese said in an announcement posted on its Web site earlier this week.
Those who do report but whose jobs aren't available will be terminated and given two weeks severance pay; they'll also have the opportunity to apply for other jobs and for assistance to find employment outside the archdiocese, the announcement said.
The archdiocese said in the statement that it is "both a victim of the storm as well as an integral source of support and aid for the recovery of our communities," and that "enormous personal and financial challenges face our archdiocese as well as the families and communities ravaged by this storm."
"The archdiocese must decide how its diminished and limited resources can best serve the greater good," the statement said. "This means that we must, however regrettably, discontinue the employment of many of our faithful workers. We pledge to keep as many as possible. We hope to rehire many in the future. We also want to assist all of our employees during this difficult time to find employment that will use their gifts and skills which have so well served our archdiocese. The policy we have developed is one that tries to balance responsible economic stewardship with respect and compassion for our valued employees. We hope for the day when we can invite all of our employees back to that vital work which unites us all."
For more details, go to http://www.arch-no.org/index.php

Oschner seeks ID, family of patient

Ochsner Clinic Foundation is looking for family members of an unidentified woman admitted to the hospital in the midst of Hurricane Katrina, the foundation said in a news release. Details are uncertain, but hospital staff believes she was brought to Ochsner from the Superdome where she evacuated with family. It is uncertain if the patient was in a nursing home or living at home with a relative.
The following is a physical description of the woman:
She is an African-American female in her late 50's or early 60's. She has short hair, a medium complexion and is approximately 5'7" tall. She is believed to have had a stroke in the past, as she has a feeding tube and is unable to speak or move. She was well cared for and has no bedsores. She also has a drop foot.
If you have any information about this woman, please contact Karla
Davis at Ochsner at 504-842-3283.