Louisiana is facing major budget cuts across the board in healthcare.
In the past few years, they've slashed program after program. The downsizing culminated with state hospitals all over the state turning private.
Now the Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals, Kathy Kliebert, says if this doesn't work they'll have to cut services.
Kliebert became the secretary two months ago amid a firestorm of controversy over the state leaving the hospital business.
LSU Health Shreveport is the sixth public hospital to convert to private, with a drop date of Oct. 1.
This comes after medical centers in Lake Charles, Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans all took the plunge earlier this year.
Kliebert said it hasn't all gone smoothly. Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge had issues getting prescriptions filled during it's changeover.
"It was sort of an unanticipated problem that we had when we did the transition. But, then the partners came and sat down with us and talked to the community about what the issues were. We were able to pretty quickly resolve those issues," said Kliebert.
The DHH hopes they're now better prepared to avoid this issue when LSU Health Shreveport transitions.
Kliebert said under new management these hospitals are expanding services.
"As a private entity, you have such flexibility in terms of being able to staff up and staff down as you need to and being able to do things without the bureaucracy of a state operation," said Kliebert.
LSU Health Shreveport has one major difference from the others. It's private partner is not a hospital.
The Biomedical Research Foundation is a non-profit, community-based research group, who has contracted the consultants Alvarez and Marsal to help with the private management transition.
"Biomed doesn't have the experience themselves, but they have gone out and gotten the experience. They've contracted individuals that have hospital management experience. I'm confident that the people they've contracted with can do the same type of things that our other partners have been able to do," said Kliebert.
Kliebert's confidence isn't necessarily matched by hospital patients and employees.
In one month, the hospital will go private and there are still lots of unanswered questions.
Kliebert said one thing is for sure. If these transitions don't free up state money, it could mean more major cuts next session.
"I do believe that we are to the point where if we do get additional reductions that it will end up affecting services," said Kliebert.
Meanwhile, the state has privatized mental health services. Magellan Health Services is now the manager. The company holds a two-year contract worth $354 million.
The state legislative auditor reviewed four south Louisiana districts and found that the new mental health system is creating confusion and adding costs.
"It's a limited look at a select number of providers rather than a broad look at what the behavioral health partnership has done throughout the state. There have been some very significant achievements in terms of what we've been able to add to services," said Kliebert. "We've added so many mental health practitioners in the medicaid system."
The contract with Magellan began in March 2012 and runs through Feb. 2014
Kliebert said through moving mental health services and acute services to managed care the state has saved $125 million this year.
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