Three UMC clinics dodge closure

by Heather Miller

The orthopedics, ophthalmology and ear, nose and throat clinics that were on the chopping block at UMC amid dire mid-year budget cuts will remain open.

Three of the five "indispensable" clinics slated to close at Lafayette's only charity hospital are safe for now.

State Rep. Stephen Ortego announces in a press release Monday night that University Medical Center's orthopedics, ophthalmology and ear, nose and throat clinics will remain open. Pediatrics, which provides preventative and specialty medicine to more than 6,000 children a year, will be moved under the umbrella of family medicine, Ortego says, and all patients who will be affected by the program cuts will receive a letter detailing where they can go for health care services. A hotline will also be set up for patients.

All public hospitals within the LSU Health System are eliminating labor and delivery, which also means the elimination of neonatal intensive care units.

LSU Health System was hit with $29 million in mid-year budget cuts handed down from the state Department of Health and Hospitals. As The Ind reported recently in "The Bitterest Pill," initial reports on the potential impact to UMC employees and patients were grim. Widespread layoffs were predicted, and the residency program, which trains 71 future doctors a year, was at risk of serious negative impacts.

"In the short-term we are trying to insure the continuation of our residency programs for medical students and provide care that cannot be found in private hospitals." Ortego says. "In the long-term we want to build on the system to insure preventative care for the region in satellite clinics and expand the LSU medical school to Acadiana."

But Ortego also notes that the status of the hospital programs will likely be raised again in coming months as lawmakers look to fill a nearly $1.6 billion shortfall for the 2012 fiscal year.

The Lafayette legislative delegation, according to a release from Ortego's office, is also looking at other funding channels for local health care, including a mix of local money to boost federal matches and pushing for more "regional control" of UMC.