Our Views: Better options for Woman’s

Baton Rouge isn’t the friendliest city for pedestrians, and for poor women who must travel to the new Woman’s Hospital for health services, getting to the hospital on foot can be not only inconvenient, but dangerous.

That’s why we hope that local mass transit and health services officials can find a way to help these poor women get to the hospital more easily.

Since September, poor and uninsured women formerly serviced by an LSU health clinic have had to travel to the new Woman’s Hospital campus at Airline Highway and Pecue Lane instead. The clinic closed as part of the state’s plan to shift more health care services for the poor away from state facilities to private institutions. Local bus service can get poor women affected by the new policy only within a mile and a half of the new Woman’s campus. Walking the remaining distance presents a formidable obstacle course, as state Rep. Regina Barrow, a Baton Rouge Democrat, demonstrated by walking the route herself recently.

Patients with Medicaid or some other government-sponsored insurance can get government-sponsored transportation to and from medical appointments. But poor parents of children in the Woman’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, for very ill or premature infants don’t qualify for such transportation, Woman’s Hospital CEO Terri Fontenot said.

Barrow added that medical transportation services don’t uniformly cover all Medicaid patients.

That means a significant hardship for a number of women who must now walk a significant distance or depend on transportation from friends and family to access Woman’s Hospital’s services. We’re especially troubled by the thought that any mother would have to walk this distance in order to see an infant being treated within the NICU. That’s a big burden to bear, especially when one’s child is confronting a health crisis.

We don’t know the number of mothers who face such a hike to the hospital, but even one is too many.

We hope that public health officials can find more reasonable transportation options for women who are now forced to reach Woman’s on foot. The gleaming new hospital boasts an array of impressive services, but patrons shouldn’t have to risk their lives to access such health care.