That Gov. Bobby Jindal is rarely even in the state, much less the tougher neighborhoods of north Baton Rouge, where the Governor’s Mansion is located, is not news. Yet the governor continues to emphasize how out of touch he is with the realities of life in his hometown for those in north Baton Rouge whose public housing is in far worse shape than his is.
The closing of Baton Rouge General-Mid City’s emergency room was a serious blow to the health of the area. Urgent-care clinics may be able to provide some of the services, but new studies question how much the centers can fully substitute for emergency rooms.
In theory, urgent care clinics can provide cheaper access to health care for those with relatively minor ailments now going to emergency rooms; some new studies suggest that many conditions for which people seek ER treatment may not turn out to be life-threatening but have to be checked out by physicians with the ER’s capacity to deal with both eventualities.
In other words, the indigestion that isn’t a heart attack is considered a waste of ER time, but ER time may be needed to determine that it was simply indigestion. And in cases where it wasn’t, the transfer time to a south Baton Rouge ER might be a serious misfortune for the patient.
We’ll have to see how the new deal works out. The Legislature created a study committee to look into the closure and its effects on the neighborhoods.
The General ER closure might not be entirely a consequence of Jindal’s policies and the closing of yet another poorly maintained state facility, the old Earl K. Long hospital. But the governor is not finished with diminishing health care services in Baton Rouge’s Mid City: He proposes to cut off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, operating a clinic on Government Street in Baton Rouge and another clinic in New Orleans.
Obviously, the governor’s actions are based on the politics of abortion, a legal medical procedure not available at the Government Street clinic — although despite Jindal’s opposition, there may be abortions available at Planned Parenthood’s New Orleans clinic one day.
A furor over the national organization providing fetal tissues for research was fueled by crass statements from a Planned Parenthood doctor; the video was obtained by underhanded means, but that doesn’t make the comments any less controversial. In any case, ultra-opponents of abortion are sometimes opposed to fetal tissue research, even if it can provide potential cures to dread diseases.
Unfortunately, what should be Planned Parenthood’s uncontroversial mission is threatened at least in part by Jindal ordering an end to Medicaid insurance, at 30 days’ notice, for poor women who make use of the organization’s extensive health screenings and family planning services.
“It has become clear that this is not an organization that is worthy of receiving public assistance from the state,” loftily opines the Republican candidate for president so far found unworthy of Fox News’ prime-time debate panel.
The two unworthinesses are obviously connected.
The lawyers will have to sort out whether the governor has the power to cut off state Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood, purely because of Jindal’s opinions and political desperation. Donors will doubtless continue to support the organization’s valuable work; if anything, they may be energized by a struggling political campaign abusing gubernatorial powers by victimizing poor women’s health care.
To the extent that services are curtailed, it’s another blow to health care in Jindal’s Baton Rouge neighborhood — and elsewhere in Louisiana.
Lanny Keller is an editorial writer for The Advocate. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.