Community health clinics to feel impact of hospital cutbacks - FOX 8, WVUE, fox8live.com, weather, app, news, saints

Community health clinics to feel impact of hospital cutbacks

Interim LSU Hospital in New Orleans serves the uninsured and working poor. Interim LSU Hospital in New Orleans serves the uninsured and working poor.

New Orleans, La. — Neighborhood clinics believe they will feel the impact of cuts to the Interim LSU Hospital in more than one way.

The hospital is facing hundreds of layoffs and a reduction in medical services because of a funding crisis.

After Hurricane Katrina left the sprawling Charity Hospital shuttered, the Interim LSU Hospital serves much of the uninsured and under-insured in the area.  But now the hospital is facing a $49 million dollar funding cut. In light of that, community clinics in the city are bracing for the fallout.

"I'm very concerned. LSU has been a great resource for our patients for specialty care," said Meshawn Tarver, executive director of the Common Ground Health Clinic in Algiers.

Tarver is concerned about seriously ill patients the clinic usually refers to the hospital for care.  "So when we heard the cuts it was really concerning, because we know that some of our patients won't be able to receive the services that they need in the specialty clinics in the time that they need it," Tarver stated.

The cutbacks at the Interim LSU Hospital are a result of a nearly $900 million drop in federal Medicaid funds the state receives. Six other public hospitals in south Louisiana will weather deep cuts as well.

"A feeling of sadness that poorer members of our community will have difficulty finding medical care, and as a physician I find [it] sad," said Dr. Benjamin Sachs, dean of the Tulane School of Medicine.

Tulane operates community clinics as well. Sachs believes poor patients who have no insurance will head to neighborhood clinics in larger numbers because of the hospital cuts.

"I think that some of these uninsured individuals, people who unfortunately are without health care insurance will be able to go to these clinics.  It's going to be financially hard, though, for the clinics," stated Dr. Sachs.

The Common Ground clinic on the west bank of New Orleans already serves about 500 patients each month.  "We still don't have primary care providers to serve these patients, as well," Tarver said.

One of the services that would end at the Interim LSU Hospital is the OB-GYN Women's Health Clinic.  The Mom and Baby Mobile Unit and the Columbia Parc Mobile Unit would also cease operations, according to an LSU Health System spokesman.

"We have a significant of women who have gynecological problems who have no insurance and do not have Medicaid.  And let's say they needed surgery for their gynecological problem, needed a hysterectomy or something like that.  There wouldn't be the hospitals to refer them to because it's very hard for the hospitals to provide that amount of uncompensated care," continued Dr. Sachs.

On Thursday, LSU officials tried to calm anxious state lawmakers.  "All along the way there's nothing more important for us to remember [than] the patients. We are very patient-centric in this approach," said Dr. Frank Opelka, LSU System executive vice president for health care and medical education redesign.

"As we work through this crisis, we haven't yet found the solutions, but people are committed to do so," continued Dr. Sachs.

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