LSU Health Shreveport watching budget crisis closely

LSU Health Shreveport watching budget crisis closely
LSU Health Shreveport

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Potentially deep cuts to the health care system paint a dismal picture for the state-owned health sciences center in Shreveport.

"Those are unsustainable kind of cuts," said Bob Johannessen, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

Louisiana's governor is warning the state lawmakers that failure to act would have dire circumstances for health care in the state.

DHH has been asked to create a plan to cut $131 million from its budget to help the state make up a nearly $1 million shortfall this fiscal year. One of the proposals would reduce funding to public-private programs, which would directly affect LSU Health Shreveport.

"I don't want to think about what would happen if a solution is not found," said Mimi Hedgcock, LSU Health's executive director of governmental affairs.

"We're talking about real people who do real work, who care for real people, so those that are in need of the services would not be able to get them," Johannessen said. "Those that provide the services would be out of work. This is not a pretty picture."

DHH might be forced to cut much of its support to both public and private programs, including LSU Health Shreveport. The state could slash its budget by $19.4 million. Also take away federal matching dollars, and that means a potential total loss of $51.3 million in just a few short months.

"If you look at the cuts as they are sustained, and you go all in, health care and higher education not seeing any relief, we would not make payroll in May," Hedgcock said.

LSU Health brings in $520 million every year. Officials say deep cuts to the program would be detrimental to students, faculty members and the entire area served by the health sciences center.

"If you look, there are only 145 medical schools in the nation and Shreveport has one of them. We need to maintain it, we need to realize it's a real asset. We need to realize that this is something we have to protect," Hedgcock said.

It's important to note that none of this is final. The special legislative session that begins Sunday will last 3 weeks and cover and this and many more potential cuts.

LSU Health officials are asking everyone to contact their representative to voice their concerns.

Gov. John Bel Edwards had a lot to say about Louisiana's health care system in his speech Thursday night. "Our health care system is on the verge of imploding," he said.

"The Department of Health and Hospitals is already facing severe cuts and, without new revenue, those cuts will be catastrophic," he said, adding:

"The health care services that are in jeopardy literally mean the difference between life and death."

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