Thursday, September 01, 2005

Health care on the ropes in Louisiana

One unheralded issue is what is happening to the state medical system. Louisiana is unique in that it has a state medical care system that guarantees care to all citizens of the state (not *free* care, unless you qualify due to low income, but they won't turn you away because you're uninsured the way the private hospitals will). The jewel of this system was Big Charity in New Orleans, albeit in new digs and with a new name. This was the hospital of last resort in the state hospital system, with the best equipment, the best doctors, the best of everything. If other hospitals in the state system couldn't handle your case, this is where you ended up.

And now it's gone. At least for the next few months.

New Orleans was not only the commercial heart of Louisiana. It was also the medical care heart of Louisiana. When you had a case that could not be handled by one of the other hospitals in the state, you went to New Orleans (or Houston, if you could travel out-of-state, but many could not). While many of the hospitals are still physically there -- the LSU Medical Center, Tulane Medical Center, Oschner Foundation, etc. -- reality is that they're basically gone, at least for the next few months.

This is a state-wide disaster, not just a New Orleans disaster. New Orleans was the heart of Louisiana in more ways than one. The only good news is that New Orleans and Louisiana itself, contrary to the usual case, currently have competent and honest leaders who aren't afraid to make the hard choices. Whether that is enough, given the utter lack of support they've received from the federal government, is yet to be seen.

- Badtux the Louisiana Penguin

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