Acadiana residents question hospital changes at forum

Two of Rose Thomas’ teenage grandchildren have serious medical problems.

“The two that are sick are on a lot of medication,” Thomas said. “Oh my God, every other day one of them is in a doctor’s office.”

So Thomas, of Carencro, had plenty of questions at a forum Tuesday hosted by Lafayette General Medical Center, which is set to take over Acadiana’s longtime safety net hospital for the poor — University Medical Center — on Monday.

Thomas asked LGMC’s president and chief executive officer, David Callecod, if some of the doctors at LGMC would provide services at what is being renamed University Hospital and Clinics, UHC.

Callecod responded that doctors who are are in private practice at LGMC would become faculty members for medical students at both LGMC and UHC.

“Lafayette General will become a major teaching hospital,” Callecod said.

He said UHC would keep University Medical Center’s current medical staff, and expand the numbers as services grow.

Callecod and UHC’s new chief executive officer, Jared Stark, answered questions about LGMC’s takeover of a medical facility that had been a medical center for the poor in Louisiana’s unique charity hospital system, which is being dismantled.

Stark, a hospital management executive from Indiana, arrived in Lafayette only a few days ago to take over as chief executive at UHC.

The forum Wednesday at the Clifton Chenier Center on West Willow Street was one of three scheduled this week.

Two forums are scheduled for Friday in UMC Voorhies Auditorium, located in the hospital at 2390 W. Congress St. One will begin at 4 p.m., and the second at 6 p.m.

Wednesday’s forum was sparsely attended, with about 10 people attending who were not hospital officials or members of the news media.

But most of them had questions.

Joe Dennis, of Lafayette, wanted to know when Gov. Bobby Jindal would drop his opposition to President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which relies on expanding the federal government’s health insurance for the poor, Medicaid, to cover more people.

So far, Jindal has not budged in his opposition to what is called “Obamacare” or his opposition to expanding the Medicaid program in Louisiana to pay for it.

“We are patiently waiting for the governor to change his mind,” Callecod said.

“We are in favor of expansion (of Medicaid), by any means.”

Callecod said LGMC’s board and executive staff looked at the Affordable Care Act after it was passed, and saw that many more in Louisiana would have access to health care.

Callecod also said the board and staff figured Jindal will continue to oppose the program, and that it would be a few years before Medicaid would be offered to more people in Louisiana.

For the time being, Stark said, UHC would improve services in other ways, such as adopting LGMC’s “best practices” approach to health care and expand services like orthopedic care.

He said the hospital would try later to offer more services for psychiatric patients.

Stark said patients will continue to be admitted “regardless of their ability to pay.”

Callecod and Stark said University Hospital and Clinics, so named to include LGMC’s affiliated health clinics in an eight-parish region of Acadiana, will keep the same phone numbers for now.

Because the state, through LSU, owns the phone system, LGMC eventually will have to install a new system with new numbers, Callecod said.

Thomas, whose grandchildren need weekly medical attention, was asked before the forum started whether she was glad LGMC would take over the old University Medical Center.

“Oh yes,” she replied. “Oh yes.”