Oct 5, 2012 12:06 AM by Maddie Garrett

Budget Cuts Threaten Jobs, Services and Resident Program at UMC

Patients and doctors alike are worried about the future of Lafayette's University Medical Center, after another round of drastic budget cuts.

"We are saddened, we are dismayed, we are worried," said Chief Resident of Internal Medicine Leah Potter.

"For people with no insurance, we don't really have anywhere to go," said patient James Citizen.

Seven hospitals in the LSU Health System are trying to figure out how to deal with even deeper cuts handed down by the State. The cuts top $125 million and one of the hardest hit hospitals is UMC, with 22% of its budget slashed.

UMC received about $22.5 million in cuts and the elimination of 173 jobs. UMC will downsize inpatient bed operations to 10 staffed beds and will discontinue ICU services. The hospital will also cut some contract and specialized clinical services.

The numbers are startling and morale at the hospital already effected by them Thursday, with a sense of uncertainty in the air.

"If you don't have insurance, where would they go? If they go to one of those other hospitals, they're not going to really do nothing. That's a bad thing too. This is one of the best hospitals I've ever been to," said Citizen.

Citizen said he's been coming to UMC for 20 years and he's worried about the cuts, like so many others who are part of UMC. That includes Dr. Potter.

"We are also very, very sad for the patients that are going to lose services in our area because that's why we're here, that's why we do what we do," she said.

Potter is supposed to finish her three year residency program next June. But now she isn't sure that will happen for her, or the other 107 or so medical students and residents currently at UMC.

"In order to complete our training, 10 beds will not provide enough patients to meet our quota to finish our training here," she explained.

Interim Administrator Glenn Craig said they're going from 48 beds to 10, unless something can be worked out to lessen the blow.

"One of the things that we're being charged with is to negotiate with community providers to see if we can get a community, public-private partnership in place which might restore some of the cuts and allow us to continue to provide those services here," said Craig.

Craig said community partnerships could offset the layoffs and provide residents with a place to complete inpatient and ICU training. But no partnerships have been established yet.

"We're talking to all of the local hospitals and hopefully that we'll be able to announce something fairly quickly," said Craig.

The rest of the hospital is banking on that same hope as well.

"I do hope that there are plans that we are not aware of, that cannot be divulged to us. But this is a hope, this isn't something set in stone, this is something no one can actually tell me," said Potter.

If the community partnerships don't work out as planned, the Craig said it does have a procedure in place through Civil Service to determine who would be laid off as part of the 173 positions set to be eliminated.

Several lawmakers are not pleased with the cuts to the health system and believe they could be avoided. State Representative Stephen Ortego said he and other legislators are working on a petition to get the House and Senate back in session. They hope to come up with a plan to take action and change these budget cuts before they go into effect at the end of the year.

"This governor has gone from healthcare to "we don't care." And so in the legislature it's time for us to start doing the job we were elected to do," said Rep. Ortego.

They need one-third of the House and one-third of the Senate to sign the petition in order to vote on going back into session.



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