Protesters rally to keep Southeast Louisiana Hospital open - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Protesters rally to keep Southeast Louisiana Hospital open

Protesters expressed their concerns and frustrations in St. Tammany Parish Wednesday as the state prepares to close Southeast Louisiana Hospital.

Workers on Tuesday started moving mental health patients out of the facility, which has been the metro area's primary hospital for mental health care.  Supporters of the hospital complain it's closing with no public input.

"This is just a simple exercise of democracy. Hold public hearings, allow the public to give some input into what's going on," said supporter Derrick Morrison.

The protesters are calling on Governor Bobby Jindal and the Department of Health and Hospitals to hear concerns from those affected before officially closing the hospital down.

"The majority of the public, we think, agree with us.  If there was a vote on whether to shut down Southeast Louisiana Hospital, we would win overwhelmingly in terms of keeping the hospital," said Morrison.

"What happened yesterday was 23 adult women with schizophrenia were transferred to a hospital, about three hours from here," said psychologist Avery Buras.

The DHH crews moved the patients to a Pineville hospital in central Louisiana. 60 intermediate care patients will head there over the next seven days.

"The decision to close the hospital, from DHH's perspective, has been made. It is a rather expensive operation to run," said Secretary of Health and Hospitals Bruce Greenstein.

Greenstein says the state wants to focus a lot of energy and resources on providing outpatient care.

"We don't want to have three state-owned mental health hospitals," said Greenstein, "There may be an opportunity that a small wing of the hospital can be leased to a private provider and be able to deliver some type of care there, and that's the process right now."

Governor Jindal says $300 million in federal Medicaid cuts made the closure of Southeast unavoidable. Now state officials are working to secure a private mental health contractor, but there's no timetable on when another company may come in.

"This is another case where they're shutting down a mental health hospital that also has an addiction unit. We continue to loose addiction service. It's going to increase crime, it's going to make the battle tougher," said pharmacist Dan Schneider.

"I'm not going down without a fight, even if it's one person, one person that might be touched," said pharmacy tech Jennifer Foret.

A committee meeting to save the hospital is set for 3:00 p.m. Saturday at Mandeville City Hall. And supporters also plan to attend a special joint budget meeting Thursday morning in Baton Rouge . Some fear more cuts to mental health will be announced.

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