NEWORLEANS -- Due to a state budget shortfall, Gov. Bobby Jindal has imposed a five percent budget cut on the LSU Hospital system, and the plan calls for some serious cuts in hospital services here in New Orleans.
Cecile Tebo, the former administrator of the New Orleans Police Department Crisis Intervention Center, says the cuts could affect public safety.
In New Orleans, the cuts will take out dozens of hospital beds. At University Hospital, the interim LSU hospital, that means the loss of 25 beds in one nursing unit that handles medical surgical patients, cutting four of the hospital's 44 emergency department beds, eliminating the entire 20 bed chemical detox unit and cutting ten beds from university's 20-bed emergency psychiatric unit.
And at the DePaul Behavioral Center the cuts slash nine of 38 inpatient psychiatric beds.
The CEP of LSU's interim hospital, Dr. Roxanne Townsend, says there's certainly going to be an impact.
'My concern is always for patients who end up in any emergency department that can't be cared for quickly,' said Townsend.
In a statement, the state secretary of the Dept. of Health and Hospitals, Bruce Greenstein, said thepotentialproblems were created by LSU, not the Jindal administration.
'LSU is receiving the full amount it was budgeted by the Legislature for this fiscal year. In fact, they will be receiving $13 million above their budget,'Greenstein said.
'Unfortunately, LSU did not manage their operations to budget throughout the year. We will work with the local community to mitigate the impacts on services caused by this situation LSU has found itself in.'
Tebo is afraid the impact could be devastating.'The impact is really going to be on public safety. I don't want to stigmatize mental health, but we just see too many situations out on the streets where violent offenses occur and it's people who have chronic mental illness who haven't been able to get treatment.'
Yet Dr. Townsend says the Metropolitan Human Services District is providing much more outpatient care than ever, and she says that will ease the impact.
'In New Orleans we're now in better shape than we were in the past,' said Townsend.
'Our community-based programs are rocking but the community-based programs serve those that are compliant,' said Tebo. 'And unfortunately, one of the major symptoms of chronic mental illness is non-compliance. So what do we do with that population that's not going to just walk in and accept service? And that's a huge population. Unfortunately, they're filling up all the beds in jail.'
Tebo says mental illness is a medical issue, and she argues cutting back so much in that area amounts to medical discrimination.