Taj-Ma-Hospital Construction Motors On. But Why Bother?‏

 LSU's Taj-Ma-Hospital is looking more and more like Taj-Ma-Impossible these days.

On Thursday October 4, 2012, the LSU Board of Supervisors met in Baton Rouge to hear Dr. Frank Opelka, the new head of the seven LSU Charity system hospitals in South Louisiana - [who took the place of Dr. Fred Cerise] - roll out yet another baseless plan.

The plan calls for more drastic cuts* to 7 Charity Hospitals across the State coupled with the idea of partnering with private hospitals and institutions in what are known as private/public partnerships to soak up the uninsured and working poor.
How LSU intends for this to happen is still a work in progress yet they are prepared to move forward anyway with a strategy that potentially leaves thousands of uninsured in a situation where they will simply have to find their own way.

These new cuts involve $49 million dollars to LSU's Interim public hospital - the transition facility from the Reverend Avery C. Alexander Charity Hospital to the not yet constructed UMC Academic Medical Center - that will result in the loss of 432 jobs as well as a reduction of beds from 201 to 155.  Clinics will close or reduce their hours. The Times Picayune reported that: "Several clinics at the New Orleans hospital -- women's health, pain management, endocrine, and sickle cell clinics -- will close. The hospital will also close two operating rooms and reduce hours for non-emergency surgeries, likely creating longer waits for such operations."

This is in addition to cutting back or eliminating prisoner care, pediatric and obstetrics care in February of this year.

All of this leaves some of us wondering why bother finishing construction at all? 

After the LSU Board of Supervisors meeting in Baton Rouge, Mr. Robert “Bobby” Yarborough - [Chairman-Elect / Member-at-large and also Governor Jindal's appointee as chairman of the UMC Academic Medical Center Board] - avoided an appearance at the Joint Committee on Health and Welfare where Dr. Frank Opelka and LSU System Interim President William Jenkins - [who took the place of Dr. John Lombardi] - were being grilled by legislators, to attend a UMC Board meeting in New Orleans.  On that agenda was an update on the new hospital construction by Mr. Tom Rish.

The UMC/AMC Board marched up to Baton Rouge last September to give them their "business plan" showing how they could guarantee legislators that they had the $1.1 Billion dollars needed to finish the hospital and would never have to come to the State again to ask for dollars in exchange for the Joint Budget Committee's approval of construction.  It is still not fully clear as to whether or not the State has actual signed contracts with FEMA and the Louisiana Physicians Foundation to make up an approximately $200 million dollar shortfall in construction dollars to finish the Ambulatory Care Building and the second parking garage. Yet the committee voted unanimously to allow LSU and the UMC/AMC Board to go ahead and obliterate Lower Mid-City and all it's historic integrity to build a mini-suburbia in the heart of the New Orleans.

Note: In another meeting at City Hall on Thursday, City Council were asked to hand over Nanny Goat park [also known as Pershing Place] to the State.  With program requirements shrinking, why on earth does LSU want more land?

  To their credit, Councilmembers voted to defer the item for two weeks until the fate of the Dough Boy Statue can be better understood.

It appears that LSU and the Governor now have a new strategy of having legislators rubber-stamp legislation emanating from the Governor's office by simply completely bypassing legislative approval for their plans all together and pushing through an agenda that amounts to full privatization of our healthcare, education and criminal justice systems.

BUT WAIT: Legislators put the brakes on that yesterday during a remarkable session*** that left even the most cynical humbled. Legislators were reluctant to believe that LSU might actually be bringing a REAL business plan to the capital this time and decided that they should be asked to weigh in.

Legislators exposed the fact that LSU have no strategic plan, no economic impact studies, no data to support their claims that private public partnerships are the answer to all our health care problems or on how to go forward with their latest plan.  In addition, Dr. Opelka was rendered speechless by Senator Nevers as he challenged him on who makes the decisions on who will live and who will die in this State.
That said, Rep. Jerome "Dee" Richard, an independent [Independent] has called for a special legislative session to discuss how to mitigate cuts to our healthcare system and the closure of S.E. DePaul Mental Hospital. 
Sign this petition to the Lousiana Division of Administration & Department of Health and Hospitals to keep Southeast Louisiana Mental Hospital Open

***Watch Dr. Frank Opelka, the new head of the seven LSU system hospitals in south Louisiana, rendered speechless as Senator Nevers challenges him to answer who lives and who dies in this state. Beginning at 2:04:55.
(Senator Mills had spoken just before about cuts potentially adding up to more that 34.4 percent if you add in revenue reductions that would make it illegal for LSU to not get legislative approval.
Another stellar moment was when Edwards strongly asserted that LSU should be asking them for money to stop the hemorrhaging until they can find away to deal with Federal cuts coming down the pike.  He was as poignant as Nevers about the fact that  LSU should be placing the emphasis on patient care rather than $$$ or people will die!!! Tune in to that at 3:05:20

*The cuts began when President Obama signed the
Federal transportation Bill into law last July.  Bobby Jindal's refusal to accept medicaid reimbursement cuts means that hundreds of thousands of uninsured in LA will not be able to get medicaid and will be left without a safety net.