Shutdown of Southeast Louisiana Hospital begins - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Shutdown of Southeast Louisiana Hospital begins

Mandeville, La. -

Dozens of mental patients are now being moved out of one of the region's mainstay hospitals.

After months of anxiety, the closure of Southeast Louisiana Hospital has begun, on orders of the State Department of Health and Hospitals.  St. Tammany President Pat Brister calls it "a sad day."

State workers began moving out dozens of mental patients from the hospital, and those who care for them are powerless to stop the closure. 

60 intermediate care patients are headed to Pineville over the course of the next seven days.

The news is especially tough in a parish that's dealing with one of the nation's highest suicide rates. 

There is a glimmer of hope for state officials working to secure a private, mental health contractor.  But even though talks have begun with a private company, there are no guarantees that a deal will be reached, and no timetable is in place for its implementation.

There's also no opinion yet from the state attorney general, who's been asked to investigate whether the funding cutbacks were legal.

The fear is that the some mental patients will fall through the cracks and perhaps end up going "to jail, to the streets... suicide, more crime in New Orleans,"says nurse Shanda Williams.

Many wonder whether a private contractor will be able to provide the same services.

Governor Bobby Jindal says $300 million in Medicaid cuts made the cuts unavoidable. 

With critical health care and over 500 jobs at stake, St. Tammany officials say the closure makes passage of a 1.6-mill public health tax next month more critical than ever.  They say it will fund two public health centers, in Slidell and Covington, that will fill at least part of the gap.

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