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Jindal’s Health Care Mess Continues to Grow

Click the image to download the 2011 LSU Health Annual Report

Click the image to download the 2011 LSU Health Annual Report

The mess that the Jindal administration is making of Louisiana health care continued to grow on Friday, despite the defeat in the Senate of the effort by legislators to convene themselves into special session to address it.

It was revealed on Friday that the massive cuts to LSU’s hospitals in the wake of the Medicaid clawback have created an $83 million hole in the budget for the LSU Medical Schools in New Orleans and Shreveport.

LSU System Executive Vice President Dr. Frank Opelka told the LSU Board of Supervisors that about $53 million will be lost as a result of cutbacks at the seven LSU hospitals in the Health Care Services Division which includes those in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, New Orleans, Houma, Bogalusa, Independence and Lake Charles.

The chancellor of LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, Dr. Robert Barish, said another $30 million would be lost to medical school financing through the three hospitals controlled by his center (Shreveport, E.A. Conway in Monroe, and Huey P. Long in Pineville).

Former Jindal campaign finance man Rolfe McCollister (a Jindal appointee to the LSU Board) suggested that selling a hospital or two might be the way to close those new budget holes at the medical schools.

Considering the LSU Board’s move to combine the LSU System head’s job with the main campus chancellor’s job – moving from rumor to reality in less than 60 days – McCollister’s comments must be viewed as a indication of the administration’s intent.

In the typical shock doctrine fashion — creating a crisis to implement a policy objective that cannot be approved in normal times — the gaping budget hole at LSU’s medical schools will likely be used as justification for the sale of one or more of LSU’s hospitals. It remains to be seen whether such a move would be sufficient to trigger a reaction against the administration in the Louisiana Senate, which remains Governor Jindal’s last legislative line of defense in the face of solid public opposition to cuts at the hospitals.

While more than 2/3 of the Senate were refusing to intervene in the crisis this week, the Louisiana State Medical Society added its voice to the growing chorus of alarm over the hastily-drawn, wholesale changes being made to LSU’s system for training doctors.

“The lack of detail and preparation regarding potential public-private partnerships has many physicians, residents and medical students clamoring for answers regarding the future of graduate medical education in Louisiana,” Dr. Anthony Blalock, the president of the medical society, wrote in a letter sent to doctors on Thursday.

While Senators failed to assert their role in the crisis on Friday, the crisis shows every sign of intensifying rather than easing. They might well get another chance to redeem themselves.

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Originally published: Oct 27, 2012