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Letters: Proposed cut in funding would devastate hospital

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The following letter was published in the New Orleans Advocate on February 20, 2016

Just six months ago in August 2015, we opened the doors of University Medical Center New Orleans, a state-of-the-art, $1.1 billion academic medical centers. As the current and former chairmen of the University Medical Center Board since inception, it was a proud moment when our community came together to celebrate this long-awaited milestone.

Since its opening, more than 2,200 University Medical Center employees and 650 physicians have come to work every day with the singular focus on providing high-quality medical, specialty, and sub-specialty care to all patients. Every patient receives the same level of excellent care and is treated with the highest level of dignity and respect. University Medical Center fills a gap that no other hospital in the area can; each year, we care for more than 70,000 patients who visit the emergency department and train 2,400 future health care providers through our teaching programs. With the advent of the new University Medical Center, LCMC Health opened more service lines and increased needed bed capacity, so they now employ 400 more staff than the state did when it ran the Interim LSU Hospital, providing a positive impact on our job market in a short period of time.

The proposed $126 million cuts would be devastating if enacted. Among other things, University Medical Center’s ability to provide basic, life-saving health care services would decrease through a reduction in emergency department capacity; for some, this would be a matter of life or death. In a move counter to our community’s desperate need for behavioral health, all 45 behavioral health beds could close. The unthinkable reality would be that the current operation and future promise of one of the most important facilities ever constructed in the state would be gutted shortly after this great enterprise has been launched.

Who does this hurt the most? It hurts the most vulnerable patients in our community. Three out of four patients who walk through University Medical Center’s doors are uninsured or on Medicaid. Some 1,000 of these uninsured patients were transferred to University Medical Center last year because they could not receive care at other area hospitals. Lastly, it hurts every taxpayer in the state, as University Medical Center represents a significant public investment — despite our historic budget shortfall, now is not the time to turn our back on this investment.

We understand the monumental task facing our governor and Legislature as they grapple with these daunting challenges. In this special session, we urge all elected officials to come together, create a comprehensive and responsible budget and deliver solutions that address the needs and priorities of all Louisianans. Within those priorities, we urge recognition that protecting and prioritizing the critically-needed health care services at University Medical Center is needed now more than ever.

Darryl Berger Robert “Bobby” Yarborough

Chairman, University Medical Center Board Founding Chairman, University Medical Center Board

New Orleans Baton Rouge