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Saturday, September 20, 2014
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(Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)<br>

(Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

Editorial: State's public health care system keeps getting hit

Last Modified: Friday, September 28, 2012 6:38 PM

The hits keep coming to the public health care system in Louisiana.

The latest was announced last week when the American Press learned that 15 employees will be laid off and another 17 will be given relocate-or-else options at W.O. Moss Regional Medical Center here in Lake Charles later this month.

The other hospitals in the LSU Health Care System are also braced for layoffs and job eliminations as a result of a $210 million cut from state funding.

The cuts at Moss come on the heels of $2.3 million in cuts earlier this year that resulted in six layoffs and closure of the center’s pediatric and psychiatric units.

More cuts may be on the way. Frank Opelka, the new head of the LSU Health Care System, will meet with the LSU Board of Supervisors this week to see approval for a revised budget. Opelka replaced Fred Cerise, who was removed from the position after he had the audacity to criticize Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration about the system’s budget cuts.

The Jindal administration’s approach appears to be to starve the public hospital beast, thus bringing badly needed reforms in a health-care system that is unlike any delivery systems employed in the other 49 states. On its best days, Louisiana’s public health care system has been described as anywhere from archaic to monolithic.

The campaign to reduce costs appears to entail converting many of the hospitals to clinics and shifting some patients that public health facilities like Moss have served to private hospitals.

That may be a way of reining in health-care costs that have ballooned in the state’s budget over the previous decade and showed no signs of leveling off.

But it’s easy to get caught up in budget numbers and layoffs.

The bottom line shouldn’t be money and employees, but the more than 120,000 outpatient visits Moss Regional handles annually. About 65 percent of those patients Moss serves have no health insurance.

“I don’t know where these people will go because they will end up having to choose between the basic necessities — they need food, water, shelter — so health care will be made last for some of them,” Moss Regional Interim Administrator Jimmy Pottorff told the American Press earlier this year.

“I don’t know where these people are going to go to get the care they deserve in Southwest Louisiana, and that keeps me up at night.”

Through all these cuts and layoffs, their care should remain the top priority of the state.

•••

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.

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