Life five years af­ter Ka­t­rina

Storm changed costs, dy­nam­ics of pro­vid­ing care

Modern Healthcare - - Front Page - Jes­sica Zig­mond

Health­care providers in the nation’s Gulf Coast may spend some time this week an­swer­ing ques­tions for Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina ret­ro­spec­tives such as this one. But they will be busier ren­o­vat­ing fa­cil­i­ties, ap­peal­ing for more fed­eral as­sis­tance, and man­ag­ing the ef­fects of health re­form, more re­cent dis­as­ters and strapped state bud­gets—all dur­ing hur­ri­cane sea­son.

As the fifth an­niver­sary of one of Ameri- ca’s worst nat­u­ral dis­as­ter nears, of­fi­cials at the Louisiana Depart­ment of Health and Hos­pi­tals in Ba­ton Rouge are look­ing be­yond Aug. 29 to an­other date on the cal­en­dar: Sept. 30, the last day of a three-year, $100 mil­lion grant from the fed­eral govern­ment that has cre­ated a pri­mary-care clinic sys­tem in the state.

Mean­while, ex­ec­u­tives at the Louisiana State Uni­ver­sity Health Care Ser­vices di­vi­sion are ea­ger to see what will re­sult from an Aug. 25 meet­ing of the New Or­leans Aca­demic Med­i­cal Cen­ter Ini­tial Cor­po­ra­tion Board, the 501(c)(3) gov­ern­ing body that will over­see the $1.2 bil­lion, 424-bed aca­demic med­i­cal cen­ter ex­pected to open in 2014. LSU holds four seats on the 11-mem­ber board, which is ex­pected to iden­tify four non-per­ma­nent mem­bers this week.

And in Mis­sis­sippi, Han­cock Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Bay St. Louis—which in­curred more than $40 mil­lion in dam­age from Ka­t­rina— ad­ver­tised for bids last week to re­con­struct the hos­pi­tal’s first floor in a $24 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion project ap­proved by the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency.

Ka­t­rina changed the cost of pro­vid­ing care, es­pe­cially in the con­text of staffing fa­cil­i­ties and keep­ing beds open to serve the pub­lic, said Mark Peters, CEO of East Jef­fer­son Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal in Me­tairie, La., which in­curred about $71 mil­lion in costs di­rectly re­lated to the storm. “The cost of that was driven up sig­nif­i­cantly and has re­mained el­e­vated,” Peters said.

Peters also cited the per­ma­nent clo­sure of the Louisiana State Uni­ver­sity Health Sys­tem’s Char­ity Hos­pi­tal, which had been the pri­mary source of health­care for the re­gion’s unin­sured pop­u­la­tion.

Since the hur­ri­cane, LSU has gone from pro­vid­ing the ma­jor­ity of ser­vices at a for­mer Lord and Tay­lor depart­ment store (Aug. 21, 2006, p. 6) to its Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal, an in­terim fa­cil­ity the sys­tem is us­ing un­til the new aca­demic med­i­cal cen­ter opens.

Rox­ane Townsend, CEO of the LSU Health Care Ser­vices di­vi­sion, said the new fa­cil­ity will cre­ate great op­por­tu­ni­ties, not only for pa­tients to re­ceive care, but for fac­ulty to con­duct re­search. The great­est chal­lenge the sys­tem faces to­day, Townsend said, is to get through the four years be­fore the aca­demic med­i­cal cen­ter is ex­pected to open, dur­ing a time when state funds are short and more peo­ple are out of work, unin­sured and in need of health­care.

Top photo shows the flood­ing of Han­cock Med­i­cal Cen­ter (seen to­day at left) in Bay St. Louis, Miss., af­ter Ka­t­rina.

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