Louisiana lawmakers are still trying to hash out this year's budget deficit, but they can't help but look ahead at next year's $750 million shortfall.
LSU Health in Shreveport is looking at cuts again next year, but the battle is just beginning.
"I wanted to come back here, I wanted to be near my family, I wanted to be in a community that I felt an attachment to," said Katie Vanchiere.
23-year-old Katie Vanchiere is a first year med student. She chose to come to LSU Health Shreveport to not only get the best education she could, but also to be close to home.
Throughout her studies, the first-year med students' class president has also been following the budget crisis closely.
"I am concerned, because I don't want to end up here for residency and come to find out we have these problems every year and it just gets worse and worse," said Vanchiere.
This current fiscal year, LSU Health had to reduce its budget by about 2 percent, and the fight for next fiscal year's budget has already started.
LSU Health Shreveport says the battle during the special session is over, but the concerns over the budget are not.
"They [our students] wonder about the future programs, our faculty listen to it, so I wouldn't say we came out unscathed from the special session, and I would say that we've got to be aware for the future fight for next year's fiscal budget," said Mimi Hedgcock, the Executive Director of Governmental Affairs LSU Health Shreveport.
The Governor has already outlined a $408 million reduction to the Department of Health and Hospital's 2017 budget. In that proposal, LSUS Health is projected to lose another 3 percent in its budget. But that could easily change by the end of the session.
"We are still very much in jeopardy and we need to be aware of that. Again the Health Science Center, the school of medicine, we're in jeopardy on the health care side and the higher education side, and those tend to be on the chopping block quite often," said Hedgcock.
Vanchiere is considering the possibility of leaving Louisiana after she is done with LSU Health.
"It's not ruling out Louisiana as a future place, but it definitely keeps me open-minded to other options and really being aware of the situation," said Vanchiere.
LSU Health recently had its budget cut in both November and February.
Administrators encourage writing to lawmakers to show support of the medical school.
The Department of Health and Hospitals released this statement from Dr. Rebekah Gee, DHH Secretary, in regards to the Governor's outline for the 2017 fiscal year budget:
These are not cuts that we are proposing. Instead, they are in response to the $408 million reduction to DHH’s 2017 budget.
Each of these cuts will have a devastating and profound impact on providers and the patients they serve. And, when a possibility might be the closure of a hospital, the impact will resonate throughout that community as jobs are lost, businesses are impacted and other providers are overwhelmed.
As we prioritized the funding of our partner hospitals, we used graduate medical education as a benchmark, recognizing the importance of our future doctors to Louisiana’s health care system. But, when each partner has a residency program, we prioritized from the hospital with the most residents to those with the least.
Losses in graduate medical education will have an impact on the provision of care, as well as on these doctors who are the future of health care in Louisiana as they seek opportunities in other states. This will have a negative impact in Louisiana for many years to come.
For health care in Louisiana, we are in a crisis situation. But, there is hope. The Governor will be calling for a second special session, and it is our hope our legislators will use that session as a chance to fix our budget and keep cuts such as these from having to be implemented.
In addition to cutting payments to Medicaid providers and the managed care companies that administer Medicaid, our agency is also being cut. These include a layoff that we announced last week, and more than $23 million being cut from our other programs. These cuts will impact our ability to inspect restaurants, water systems and health care providers, impact the number of forensic mental health beds, and reduce opportunities for people with disabilities to receive community-based services.
Our agency’s staff has been reduced from more than 12,000 employees to about 5,000 today. The reality is we cannot meet our public health obligations that our citizens expect if these reductions are implemented.
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