Proposed state budget cuts would prompt emergency mental health treatment unit closings, surgical program eliminations, emergency room service reductions and bed closures at LSU hospitals across south Louisiana, LSU officials said Wednesday.
“We are looking at trying to balance patient services and physician training requirements, but both of them are going to take a big hit,” LSU System Vice President Fred Cerise said.
The $24.5 million in budget reductions affect the seven hospitals managed through LSU’s Health Care Services Division, including those in Baton Rouge and Lafayette.
The cuts are tied to House Appropriations Committee action to balance the Jindal administration’s proposed $25 billion budget after new state revenue estimates showed $300 million less would be available for spending. LSU HCSD’s share of the cut was $21.5 million. The other $3 million are cuts required to otherwise balance the budget allotment the agency got in Jindal’s initial budget plan.
The reduction in state funds will trigger the loss of several times that in federal funds for hospital operations.
Louisiana Hospital Association president John Matessino said the LSU hospital reductions will only increase pressure on community hospitals that are already facing a double-whammy of budget cuts. One round is related to state funding shortfalls and the other the stripping of one-time money in the House passed budget. They total a near 10 percent cut in Medicaid reimbursement for care of the poor, he said.
“We have all been cut and every time they cut something — limiting the emergency room, or closing emergency rooms or shutting beds, we know where they go — to the community hospitals,” Matessino said.
Some of those who would move from LSU hospitals to community hospitals would be Medicaid patients “but a lot of them are not. They are uninsured patients and it’s difficult to receive any payment for their care,” Matessino said.
At the LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center, the number of in-patient beds would be reduced from 52 to the 36-to-40 bed range; two of its eight intensive care beds would be reduced as well as five of its emergency room beds; its Mental Health Emergency Room Extension, would close; and the hospital would no longer do total joint replacement surgery, oral surgery and ear, nose and throat procedures.
The MHERE unit would also close at University Medical Center in Lafayette where there would be a 5 percent staff reduction, elimination of emergency room nonacute services as well as ophthalmology services, the orthopedic clinic and sleep lab.
At other hospitals the cuts would trigger such things as closure of the inpatient psychiatric unit and an outpatient behavioral health clinic at Bogalusa Medical Center; elimination of the cardiology program at Lallie Kemp Medical Center in Independence; closure of orthopedics services and the psychiatric unit at Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma; shutting the psychiatric unit and ob-gyn clinic at the Medical Center of Louisiana in New Orleans; and elimination of rheumatology services at W.O. Moss Medical Center in Lake Charles.
The planned closure of the Mental Health Emergency Room Extension at Earl K. Long facility in Baton Rouge is one of the “biggest loss areas” locally, Matessino said.
The 20-bed MHERE unit at the Earl K. Long facility had been reduced to half capacity through an earlier budget cut. The unit is designed to stabilize patients with mental health problems and line up follow-up care. The units free up emergency room beds for patients with medical-only emergencies. Private hospitals had long complained about mental health patients clogging emergency rooms and the special unit has been providing some relief.
“The place sat idle for a while and they finally got money and got it open and now we are going to close it,” Matessino said.
Cerise said LSU does not have in-patient mental health services at either Baton Rouge or Lafayette hospitals. “When you are being pressed as hard as we are being pressed that’s something not connected to in-patient services,” he said.
“We are hoping we don’t have to do any of it,” said Cerise.