Local legislators and community activists called on the Jindal administration Wednesday to provide funding to keep open the Baton Rouge General Medical Center Mid City’s emergency room.
State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb and others said the planned shutdown in less than 60 days does not give sufficient time to come up with viable solutions to keep the emergency room open long-term.
“People are going to die. How do you put the lives of our people in jeopardy because of money?” Dorsey-Colomb asked. “We are about to put the Capital City in a death zone.
“If Gov. Jindal and his administration go through with this horrific decision … you will be living in a Jindal death zone,” said Dorsey-Colomb, a Democrat in whose district the hospital sits.
Later Wednesday, the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council passed a resolution urging the Legislature to explore the impact on the city of closing the Mid City ER.
The state had provided an $18 million infusion of cash last year to keep the emergency room open.
Gov. Bobby Jindal said at another event Wednesday that despite his administration giving the General money “they decided to close the ER. If they’ve got a new plan, if they want to try to keep ER open, we’re certainly willing to listen,” Jindal said. “We haven’t heard a plan from the General.”
State Department of Health and Hospitals has said that the administration had not promised additional funds beyond last year’s bailout.
Baton Rouge General board members said without additional funding, they had no choice but to close the emergency room. The mounting red ink could jeopardize operation of the whole hospital.
At a State Capitol steps gathering, state Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, said the emergency room closure will “affect everybody. It’s going to affect the people in south Baton Rouge, the people in Central, East Feliciana, Zachary.”
White called on the Jindal administration to fulfill a promise of financial support for Mid City and Lane Regional Medical Center in Zachary if the hospitals got slammed with uninsured patients after closure of LSU’s Earl K. Long Medical Center. He said the hospitals’ uninsured care volume has escalated since Earl K. Long Medical Center, located in north Baton Rouge, closed and the uninsureds came to the nearest hospital.
“They gave us their word they would fix it,” White said.
Potential solutions could include redirecting some of the dollars available for uninsured care primarily going to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center today; leveraging corporate contributions and other unspecified funds to generate additional dollars and state participation in Medicaid expansion allowed under federal law.
A delay of the emergency room closure would also give legislators an opportunity to weigh in with financing options, said state Rep. Regina Barrow, a Baton Rouge Democrat.
Former state health secretary David Hood said Medicaid expansion, which Gov. Bobby Jindal has blocked, would go a long way in resolving financial issues surrounding care of those without insurance. The expansion would provide government health insurance to those earning below 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or $32,500 for a family of four, he said.
“In addition to Medicaid expansion, we need to talk about some other partner collaborations,” said Senate President Pro Tem Sharon Broome, a Baton Rouge Democrat.
Louisiana Budget Project executive director Jan Moller said the Lake gets reimbursed 100 percent for uninsured patients as the home for LSU hospital inpatient care and medical education programs. “A lot of people who need that care are in Mid City. There’s a need to redistribute some of those dollars to where it’s needed the most,” Moller said.
Dorsey-Colomb called for a “reconfiguration” of the LSU-state agreement with the Lake.
Baton Rouge General announced last week it would close its Mid City hospital’s emergency room in the next 60 days.
At the time, Baton Rouge General president and CEO Mark Slyter said financial losses are more than $2 million a month and were projected to hit $25 million to $30 million in 2015. “No hospital can survive with that kind of hit,” he said.
Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker said she lives a few minutes from the hospital and recently had to speed down Florida Boulevard when her mother stopped breathing. Wicker said her mother likely would have died if they had not been close to the emergency room, as would be the case when the ER closes.
Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the state capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.