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UMC officials lament proposed cuts

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

The day after the state House approved a budget that could see it closed, University Medical Center unveiled a new 27,000-square-foot burn unit. And as officials tout a new level of care, they worry about the impact of cuts that some state officials are now trying to resolve.

The hospital still looks brand new, but it and six other hospitals could close their doors under a budget that the governor said Friday will not stand.

It's a burn unit in a level one trauma center that should prevent future burn victims from having to be sent hundreds of miles for treatment.

"Last year we had to transfer 300 people out of the state because there were no  burn units to treat them," said burn unit director Dr. Jeffrey Carter.

But while UMC officials proudly showed off the latest addition to their sparkling $1.2 billion hospital, news sinks in about state representatives passing a budget that could lead to it's closure.

"A lot of this was new to me, and people who had been here longer would say this does happen," said UMC CEO Bill Masterton.

Word of the budget cuts surprise the hospital's CEO, who believes UMC is one of the best in the country. So does the governor.

"That's unacceptable to the people of Louisiana and unacceptable to the people who voted for this yesterday, which is a foolish exercise," said Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The budget, which could cause nearly $2 billion in cuts and close hospitals across the state is now headed to the Senate,.

"What we have on our hands right now is like moving the chairs on the Titanic. Nothing good happens at this point," said Sen. John Alario, R-Westwego.

Talk of budget cuts are an annual rite of spring, and though most believe they will survive, they say don't believe for one second that there won't be impacts.

"The real danger is along the way people who don't want to deal with this fatigue make other choices," said Masterton.

"We all have budget fatigue, but more than that, we have partisan politics. Like Washington, this is about taking care of Louisiana," said Sen. Troy Carter D-Algiers.

With limited options, Edwards wants the current session to end so that the seventh special session of his administration can begin. Other sessions have failed to close a money shortfall now estimated at $650 million.

"We did have a consensus, and the speaker backed away from it on the first day. But now they've gone through the education," said Edwards.

It's an education that he says has created a state financial situation that cannot stand.

The exact date for the special session has not been set.  Edwards says when he does in fact call for one, it will likely be May 14 or 18.

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