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Proposed state budget could gut University Medical Center funding

Job cuts could follow, La. Hospital Association warns

NEW ORLEANS -- The 3-year-old, $1.2 billion public hospital in New Orleans is now treating nearly 350,000 patients a year.

The poor and uninsured from across Louisiana depend on safety-net hospitals like University Medical Center for healthcare.

Tuesday, LaShaun and Chris Wilson from Tallulah were at UMC visiting a loved one who recently got into a serious car crash.

They said proposed budget cuts to public health programs would leave their family with no where else to turn.

"Like me, I need it and my brother he needs it now," LaShaun Wilson said. "It's just a hard thing for him and myself, me having surgery a lot."

"I feel like everybody needs healthcare," Chris Wilson said. "They should fund hospitals and more doctors to help people."

Public hospitals and health services take the lion share of $648 million in cuts outlined in the state budget bill that passed out of a House committee on Monday.

"UMC has zero funding under the current budget," UMC President and CEO Bill Masterton said.

Safety-net hospital managers have warned the proposed reductions would lead to clinic shutdowns, widespread service eliminations and possible hospital closures.

"We kind of go through this process every year, when we're trying to recruit employees and when we're trying to recruit physicians and clinical faculty and residents that have just recently matched," Masterton said.

Masterton added that the threatened shutdown comes at a time when the hospital's private operator, LCMC-Health is saving the state money and providing quality health care.

He admits LCMC Health could withdraw from the partnership if funding isn't restored.

"In addition to providing patient center care to every person we have the privilege to serve, we here at UMC are also training the next generation of physicians," Masterton said. "We do provide meaningful work for 2400 of our friends and neighbors right here in this community."

The Louisiana Hospital Association is now warning in series of ads on TV and radio that cuts to healthcare could lead to the loss of thousands of jobs.

"The health of our families is the one priority we cannot afford to short change," the ad said. "Balancing a state budget should not come at the expense of health or hope."

The chancellor at the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans warns the deep cuts proposed in the house budget would devastate graduate medical education in the state.

He is urging lawmakers to stall the budget process until they can meet in another special session to fill the gap in funding next year.

The budget bill could be debated in the full house as early as Thursday.

LCMC Health released this statement about the proposed budget cuts.

"The partnership between the State of Louisiana and LCMC Health to operate University Medical Center New Orleans has worked remarkably well for nearly five years.

The lack of funding for UMC places this growth and success in jeopardy at a time when it is clear the partnership is delivering significant results.

LCMC Health and UMC have a responsibility to protect the 280-year legacy of delivering quality healthcare to those in need, and to the professionals who remain dedicated to and UMC's mission. We remain firmly committed to the partnership and the employees of UMC.

This community – indeed, the entire State of Louisiana – is healthier and economically stronger because of UMC."

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