Last Modified: Friday, October 19, 2012 6:11 PM
If many Louisianians are feeling skittish about the state of health care in our state, who can blame them?
The slash-and-burn efforts recently visited upon Louisiana’s public hospitals — these followed cutbacks of some $860 million in federal Medicaid funding — have caused losses in jobs and in available beds. Poor people are wondering where to turn if they are turned away at the hospitals, and medical residents have expressed concern this month about not only their training but about the well-being of the patients they serve.
What’s next, our state’s people might ask, with some trepidation over the possible answers.
Some state officials are seeking ways to emerge from these turbulent times for public health with a streamlined, more efficient system. At a public meeting at the LSU Medical School in New Orleans earlier this month, Chancellor Larry Hollier suggested that the public health system was eroding years ago, long before the public clamor that arose from the most recent rounds of cuts. Hollier said that the decline in patients at public hospitals had made it more difficult to provide resident training to doctors, who simply lacked for patients. Hollier said training might actually improve by sending doctors-in-training to private hospitals, where they are more certain to find patients.
Bruce Greenstein, secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, said new agreements with public hospitals will protect patients at lower cost. As an example, he cites the LSU agreement with Our Lady of the Lake hospital in Baton Rouge. That effort will save some $400 million, with better training for doctors and more services for patients, Greenstein said.
Louisianians should appreciate every good-faith effort to improve health care in Louisiana, especially during trying times. So much is unsettled with health care in this state. Events on the horizon — the next Senate race, in which the governor might be a factor; Obamacare, should that program stay in place — may change the direction of health care in Louisiana yet again.
That’s why the state would do well to keep Louisiana people informed about its plans for health care. The Jindal administration did not even keep its political allies informed about changes during the recent cutbacks to the LSU hospitals. When sweeping state changes have been made of late in Southwest Louisiana, Jindal’s hand-picked speaker of the House has been kept in the dark.
It’s one thing for the state to lose federal Medicaid funds. It’s quite another for the state leadership to lose the confidence of its own people. The former may be beyond the control of our elected leaders. The latter may be the direct result of their disregard and disrespect shown for the people they have been elected to serve.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.