I remember as a child desperately stumbling 10 blocks from my grandmother’s small house on 29th Street — just blocks from where I live today in the area we residents, with affectionate irony, call “Easy Town.” I was fighting for every breath, suffering an acute asthmatic attack as my 70-year-old grandmother led me to the Baton Rouge General Medical Center’s emergency room. She was ill herself, and like all of our neighbors then and now, I and my grandmother were without money. Without hope. No insurance. No phone. And this particular time, no car. My lungs were as hard as two concrete blocks and a dark curtain of unconsciousness was flickering over my eyes as I took the final steps. Those emergency room doctors and nurses saved my life. They saved me, not just that day, but a second day as well.
Even as Gov. Bobby Jindal was infamously accusing the British of tolerating imaginary “no-go zones,” he and his administration were creating a real medical “no-go zone” here in Baton Rouge by deliberately defunding BRGMC’s Mid City emergency room. His administration had given me their word that they would make up the shortfall created at the Mid City ER after Jindal destroyed our state’s charity hospital system. Last year, they reiterated that promise as the true enormity of Jindal’s destruction of our health care system and its impact on the Mid City emergency room became apparent.
Jindal may claim that DHH “mispoke” in its promise or that “there’s just no money.” No money to keep citizens alive? This governor makes noises about being a Christian, yet cannot remember that Jesus says of those who refuse to help the sick, “Whatsoever you did not do for the least of my brethren, you did not do for me.” If he has closed his heart to Jesus, then at least his presidential ambitions should motivate him to avoid the billions this state will owe in wrongful death lawsuits from his calculated denial of health care for certain zip codes.
The moment they turn the lights off in that emergency room, downtown gets sucked into the Jindal Death Zone. South Baton Rouge, midcity, the Garden District, Old Goodwood, North Baton Rouge … white, black, well off or otherwise, all will be part of the Jindal Death Zone.
Our coroner said, “It’ll be disastrous,” and I agree. People are going to die from heart attacks or strokes or accidents who would have been saved if that ER had been where it is supposed to be.
My nightmare is that a desperately injured or sick child will soon endure the terror that I endured, but without the happy ending.
state senator, District 14