NEW ORLEANS - A doctor and two patients said care for nonemergency patients without money is almost nonexistent, while some passing cars honked in encouragement Thursday to a dozen people holding signs calling for Charity Hospital to reopen.

"We are still in a state of crisis," said Dr. James Moises, an emergency room doctor at Charity until it closed after Hurricane Katrina. He now works across the street, at Tulane University Hospital. "It's not very obvious to the average person on the outside or to most politicians, but it's definitely apparent to the poor patients that we're taking care of who have limited or no access to care in the New Orleans area."

Regina Peters, who spent three months in Charity Hospital after she was shot in the head two years ago, said she supports herself and four children doing quality control for a landscaping company, but she can't afford either insurance or taking days off to drive to Baton Rouge, about 80 miles away.

"I do have a job that makes my ends meet," she said. When she tried to get nonemergency care, she said, she was told to go to a clinic in Baton Rouge. "I don't want to go to Baton Rouge. I want to get my care here, in New Orleans," she said.

Dr. Moises said after the news conference that patients without insurance who need immediate care to stay alive and those who have insurance can get care, including hospitalization if that's needed. About 50 hospital beds and a dozen critical care beds are open around the metro area on any given day, he said.

But only two small clinics are open to people who don't have insurance, he said. One is across the street from the old hospital; the other is in an otherwise closed shopping center nearby.

The hospital is needed not only by people who want to return home but also by Mexican workers who are rebuilding the city, said Darius Johnson, local NAACP health-care chairman.

The New Orleans City Council and the Legislature have called on Gov. Kathleen Blanco to get LSU Health Care Services Division, which runs the charity hospital system, to reopen at least part of the 75-year-old building, Dr. Moises said.

He said Don Smithburg, head of the charity system, has blocked the reopening. Mr. Smithburg was not available for comment, division spokesman Marvin McGraw said.

Mr. McGraw released a one-page statement reiterating what Mr. Smithburg has been saying since the hurricane: the hospital was too seriously damaged to fix, and an LSU consultant and the U.S. Government Accountability Office agree.

"We must be concerned about what hides above the ceiling tiles, in the HVAC chases, throughout the corroded gas lines, and in the 1938 electrical systems that run through 21 stories of the building," it said. "And, just as a flooded car cannot be put in working order by detailing, the repair of Charity Hospital extends well beyond pumping the basement and mopping floors."

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