Patients to start moving from doomed New Orleans Adolescent Hospital next week

Patients to start moving from doomed New Orleans Adolescent Hospital next week
July 17, 2009
by Bill Barrow
The Times-Picayune

The first patient transfers from the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital to the Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville will begin next week as the state implements a plan to close the Uptown New Orleans mental facility.

Five minors will be moved from the 35-bed New Orleans hospital, with more moves scheduled during the next three weeks. The goal, authorities said, is to move as few patients as possible, with empty beds being transferred after patients are discharged.

Layoff notices, meanwhile, were delivered this week to 46 employees at NOAH, which since Hurricane Katrina has served both adults and children with inpatient beds and outpatient services. Of those workers, 26 are in permanent positions, while 23 are still in their probation periods; 122 employees have been given opportunities to transfer to Southeast Louisiana Hospital. Workers who received layoff notices would get the first chance to take any permanent spots if a prospective transferee refuses to move.

The job losses take effect Aug. 14, assuming the expected final approval from the state Civil Service Commission.

Employees who provide NOAH outpatient services will transfer to two new clinics expected to open in August: one in Mid-City at 3801 Canal St., the other in Algiers at a location the state has yet to secure.

The changes have drawn considerable attention amid statewide budget cuts and Gov. Bobby Jindal's veto of a legislative attempt to keep the New Orleans inpatient services operational. A lawsuit from two hospital patients and one employee is pending in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, with a hearing set for July 27 on their request for a preliminary injunction to stop the closure.

But state officials said Thursday that the overarching plan maintains inpatient beds in the region while expanding outpatient offerings through the clinics, with the long-term aim of reducing the demand for hospitalization.

Deputy Health Secretary Sybil Richard said Louisiana has depended too heavily on hospital care both for mental and physical health problems. "That is just the wrong way to do things, " she said, repeating her months-old contention that state would have closed the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital independent of budget cuts.

Dr. Richard Dalton, medical director for the state Office of Mental Health, cited planned expansion of the clinical staffs of the outpatient clinics and new treatment programs. "Our goal is to get our community services to the point so we can in the next two years discontinue the hospitalization of children, " he said. "That's not a fiscal goal. That's a clinical goal."

Richard also promised five-day-per-week transportation for families of patients moved to the north shore. And she said the minor patients who receive schooling as part of their treatment will not miss any lessons.

Dalton said the state health agency also will implement new patient assessments, going beyond length and frequency of hospital stays to track patients' symptoms and their quality of life. The data, which could be analyzed slightly more than a year from now, will validate the changes, he said.
Comments: 0