BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Louisiana State University governing board backed a plan Thursday to deepen cuts to $152 million for the university-run public hospitals that care for the poor and uninsured, eliminating dozens of inpatient beds, clinic services and nearly 1,500 jobs.
The cuts could threaten access to health care for some uninsured people in the high-poverty state.
The reductions, devised with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration, will fall across seven south Louisiana hospitals, carving out 19 percent of the spending that had been planned for those facilities run through LSU’s Health Care Services Division.
University officials say they hope that services being eliminated at the public hospitals will be picked up by private health care facilities, and that those private facilities will provide training sites for the medical students who currently work in LSU hospitals.
But few of those agreements are in place.
It’s unclear where some uninsured patients will receive care when services disappear at the LSU centers in the coming weeks. House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, said he’s worried about gaps in critical services.
“We would hope that there’s not, but these could be complex agreements that we have to walk though,” said hospital system leader Frank Opelka. He added, “We would like to know that we can actually close these gaps as fast as possible and do these partnerships as soon as possible.”
He acknowledged in questioning from lawmakers that if LSU and the Jindal administration can’t get a “partner” in an area, the uninsured will have less access to medical care and difficulty getting services.
The budget slashing is in response to Jindal’s decision to levy most of a federal Medicaid funding drop on the LSU health care system rather than on private providers. More cuts are expected next year.
Opelka, LSU’s executive vice president for health care and medical education redesign, said the budget cuts were developed with Jindal health secretary Bruce Greenstein. The LSU Board of Supervisors approved the plans without objection. Opelka then presented them to the House and Senate health care committees.
In Baton Rouge, intensive care unit beds will be shuttered. In New Orleans, a woman’s health clinic and two mobile health care units will close and surgery hours will shrink. An arthritis clinic in Lake Charles, the dermatology and neurology clinics in Houma, the ICU in Independence and the mental health clinic in Lafayette all will shut down.