Special session cuts worries Desoto Health System

Rural hospitals face cuts to balance state budget shortage

Mansfield, La. - Rural hospitals in Louisiana face major cuts if legislators do not approve using money from the Rainy Day Fund during the special session.
The potential cuts could hit close to home in Desoto Parish. 
The CEO of Desoto Regional Health, Todd Eppler, said "rural hospitals as whole are saying a vote against the Rainy Day Fund is a vote against rural hospitals and the people they serve. The bottom line is that without this money they can't provide services."
His remarks show the uncertain times for rural health care in Louisiana.
Without Rainy Day money, $10.8 million will be cut from 50 rural hospitals. Possibly causing Desoto Regional Health to lose $200-thousand from their budget. 
"It may not be a big number for the state, but it's a big number for rural hospitals. That kind of a cut would really have an big impact on our ability to take care of patients, especially in such a short amount of time," Eppler said.
Eppler said most people in Desoto Parish see primary care physicians at one of their three rural clinics and 700 visit the emergency room each month. 
"Emergency room services are probably the most important thing that rural hospitals do. I can give two to three examples since I've been here of people who would not have made it to Shreveport for care," Eppler said.
He said rehab and outpatient services would also be impacted. The cuts would not be as drastic if it were spread over the entire fiscal year instead of suddenly, during the last three months. 
"The state is not just giving us money. This is money that we've earned and now we're not going to get and we've budgeted for, and we're not going to get it because the state does not having as much money as they projected to have this year," Eppler said.
State Representative for District 7, Larry Bagley, said cuts will have to made either way, but he doesn't want his district to lose out. As of Monday morning, Rep. Bagley said he was undecided on how he will vote, but will support his district over state politics. 
"There's some that do not want to give any Rainy Day money. There's some who want to give it all. I'm somewhere in between that. I live in a rural district. My district is basically rural except for southern Shreveport. It's going to be hard to not to cut out, but I don't want to cut off," Rep. Bagley said.
Eppler said Desoto Health expects to receive $116-thousand each month from the state for caring for uninsured patients. Profit margins were about $160-thousand, so without the Rainy Day money the $200-thousand cut would basically wipe out any margins they made. Eppler said making sure they're doors stay open and patients receive quality care is most important. 

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