As the president/CEO of North Oaks Health System, I am writing to express my grave concern over the proposed state budget cuts to community hospitals and to urge your readers to ask their legislators to protect our funding.
For many years, North Oaks Medical Center has cared for one of the highest Medicaid and Medicare populations in Louisiana. For the past 27 years, we have operated solely on the self-generated revenue earned from our quality patient care. No tax monies are received. Any excess revenue is reinvested in our services to address the demand for health care in one of the fastest-growing areas of our state and in the nation.
In spite of growing demands, Medicaid reimbursement for Northshore community hospitals has been cut by more than $16 million in less than three years. North Oaks Medical Center’s share of the reductions is 46 percent, or $7.4 million. And now we are facing an additional $3 million hit if the proposed 4 percent cut in the state budget stands. When coupled with federal Medicare cuts and the charity patient cases we write off, Medicaid reductions are chipping away at our ability to provide the full-scope of jobs and services that our communities depend on, such as our emergency room (ranked third-busiest in Louisiana) and neonatal intensive care (ranked among the top 25 percent for positive outcomes in the United States.).
We also are the second-largest employer in Tangipahoa Parish. Together with Southeastern Louisiana University — also facing severe budget cuts — we provide lifeblood to the local economy. More than 80 percent of North Oaks’ nearly 2,500 employees live in Tangipahoa and Livingston parishes. Their buying power, coupled with our reinvestment in services, is valued conservatively at more than $219 million annually.
Ongoing reimbursement cuts certainly will mean devastating changes and difficult choices for North Oaks and other community hospitals. Until now, we have been able to strategically deal with the cuts, but we are fast-approaching our limit. Further reductions may jeopardize access to medical services and the health of our local economies.
Let your voice be heard. Contact your legislators immediately and urge them to protect funding for full-service community hospitals.
James Cathey, president/CEO
North Oaks Health System