Health units getting help to stay open

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 29, 2000

L’Observateur / November 29, 2000

BATON ROUGE – State health officials said more than two-thirds of the parish health units that will lose all state staffing will remain open due to outside help.

That includes the Edgard health unit in St. John the Baptist Parish, but theLutcher health unit in St. James Parish will close on the Dec. 8 deadline.No agency has yet said it will take over the services at that east bank unit.

The St. James Parish site in Vacherie will continue to be staffed by DHH, aswill the health unit in Reserve.

St. John Parish has contracted with LaPlace Primary Care Center for medicalservices at the Edgard site.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has set a Dec. 8 deadlinefor removing its staff from 25 parish health units in 20 parishes. AlthoughDHH had already extended this deadline from Oct. 1 to Nov. 1 to Dec. 1, theagency’s budget mandate makes further extensions extremely difficult. But,DHH Secretary David Hood said his agency will give interested parishes additional time to finalize agreements to continue current services.

“Parishes that have not already committed for the continuation of current preventive services must submit definite plans to OPH no later than Dec. 1to allow for contractual arrangements between our agency and local providers,” Hood said. “Still, I want to thank local officials and providers whohave worked with us to find ways to keep most parish health units open.” Theresult is solutions have been found to continue vital preventive services and in some communities, to add primary health care at these locations.

“Primary care will add medical practitioners to diagnose and treat a wide range of illnesses,” Hood added. “This will allow treatment of commonconditions to occur in the community instead of having to drive long distances to a hospital’s emergency room.”The office of Public Health has sent letters to officials in Bienville, Lafourche, St. James, Concordia, Catahoula, St. Martin and JeffersonParishes that outline the steps necessary for DHH to extend it’s deadline.

Madeline McAndrew, assistant secretary of the OPH, added that of these parishes, four have not yet selected a provider for contracted, preventive services. In three of these parishes, local officials have indicated they havedecided to utilize the parish-owned space for other purposes. Of the sevensites where providers have not yet been selected, all but the Raceland and Lutcher sites are part-time health units.

“We have been working with local officials to make these conversions since early August. Nonetheless we have advised officials that we are ready toassist them if they want to ensure a continuation of services at these sites,” McAndrew explained.

For the most part, health unit services include immunizations, family planning clinics, sexually transmitted disease clinics and the distribution of food vouchers through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Since DHH announced in July that the agencywould be withdrawing its staff at 25 of 109 parish health units to meet its downsizing directive, the agency has helped forge agreements between local governments and private providers to add primary care in Vivian, Gonzales, Franklin, Monroe and Jeanerette. In DeQuincy and Denham Springs, the newproviders will offer these medical services from the offices instead of the health unit.

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