River Parishes blocked from providing preventative care due to designation

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — Because St. John does not have a Disproportionate Service Hospital, uninsured patients cannot receive preventative care from the local hospital.

The only local place for uninsured St. John residents to receive preventative care is at the Teche Action Center in Edgard.

Dr. Gary Wiltz, the center’s director, said St. John the Baptist Parish is home to the biggest void in preventative care for the uninsured in the River Parishes.

Wiltz is concerned that uninsured residents of greater St. John may be isolated from the center due to lack of transportation.

He also said this may be part of the reason St. John experiences a far higher infant mortality rate than the surrounding parishes.

According to the 2005 Louisiana Department of Health profiles, infants and newborns in St. John were twice as likely to die than those in St. Charles Parish.

Teche Action Center provides a nurse practitioner for low or no cost depending on the patients income on Monday, Wednesday and a half-day on Friday to provide basic care, diagnose illnesses and write prescriptions.

Uninsured patients are required to bring income information to the center so staff can assess their ability to pay. The amount a patient must pay is on a sliding scale, but Wiltz said they try to keep it below $20 per visit.

Teche Action Center is located at 149 E. 3rd St., Edgard, LA.

Limited health services such as birth control, immunizations, sexually transmitted disease checks and the nutrition-based women, infants, and children program are also available at local Health Departments at 473 Central Ave., Reserve, LA and 29170 Health Unit Dr., Vacherie, LA.