Questions about closure of the Earl

A Baton Rouge lawmaker said Tuesday the closure of the LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center has limited access to care.

State Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, complained about barriers that her constituents are facing as they seek treatment and medications, problems that have not been there in the past.

“Our safety net has holes in it,” Barrow told the state House Health and Welfare Committee. “I think we have taken a step back.”

Barrow said local community hospitals are also worried about bankruptcy because of an influx of uninsured patients for whom they are not being reimbursed. “The compensation necessary has not been added in for them,” she said.

Barrow also said transportation issues have still not been resolved.

The lawmaker recounted problems as she promoted House Concurrent Resolution 51 aimed at stopping further LSU hospital privatization efforts until problems in Baton Rouge are fixed.

LSU shuttered the Earl K. Long facility on April 15. Inpatient care and medical education programs moved to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. The Lake is getting reimbursed 100 percent for uninsured care unlike other community hospitals.

Obstetrics and gynecological care is being delivered through Woman’s Hospital.

Barrow said clinic charges of $125 are being required of women to receive care at Woman’s operated clinics without any assessment of their ability to pay. There are also problems in getting physician referrals, she said.

“Prior to all of this, if an individual went to Earl K. Long and did not have the money, they would still be served,” Barrow said.

Barrow said woman are having trouble getting access to birth control pills. She noted that the Lake because of its religious principles won’t fill such prescriptions.

“It’s about moving too quickly without all the pieces in place,” Barrow said.

LSU and Jindal administration officials said there have been some problems.

Doreen Brasseaux, the LSU Health assistant vice president for public policy, said Woman’s Hospital took over the OB-GYN clinics in a last-minute deal. “They have to take over the public mission of LSU,” Brasseaux said.

She said LSU Health is working with the hospital on the co-payment issue and the financial screening that’s supposed to be done.

Pharmacy arrangements are in the process of being made to provide access to birth control, Brasseaux said.

“Any transition is going to have some kinks in it,” state Division of Administration chief counsel Liz Murrill said. She said the privatization agreements will ultimately increase patient access.

“These are definitely concerns that need to be addressed,” said state Rep. Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs and committee chairman.

“From something of this magnitude there’s a lot of fallout. I really understand her issues. I feel for those people who live in this area and don’t have access to medical care,” said state Rep. Thomas Willmott, R-Gretna. “Please continue to work with her.”

Barrow dropped her resolution, noting that there weren’t the votes to pass it.

But she promised, “You will see me until it’s corrected.”