Riverland now faces more cuts

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 15, 2000

FERRIDAY, La. — Further Medicaid reimbursement cuts proposed by the state Department of Health Hospitals could cost Riverland Medical Center about $500,000 a year, Administrator Vernon Stevens said Friday.

The department imposed 7 percent budget cuts March 1 to fill a $126 million hole in this year’s Medicaid budget. And almost 80 percent of the patients Riverland sees are Medicaid or Medicare cases.

A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order to prevent further cuts until he rules on a suit Louisiana’s health care providers have filed against the state to bar the cuts. But U.S. District Judge Richard Haik has not yet ruled in the case.

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But Riverland isn’t taking any chances in case Haik rules in favor of DHH. In the next few months, the hospital will be looking at ways it can cut costs without cutting the quality of patient care.

Some options the hospital’s Board of Trustees may consider are getting an outside company to manage its home health agency — saving as much as $300,000, Stevens estimates — or rebidding its contract for emergency room staffing, which Stevens believes could save up to $40,000.

The current ER contract expires this summer.

In addition, it may be necessary to cross-train support employees to do other jobs so that when other workers quit or retire, the remaining employees can take on other duties.

For example, said Stevens, a maintenance worker could take on housekeeping duties if a housekeeper retired, or a nurse’s aide could do some clerical tasks if a clerk quit.

&uot;But (Riverland) already downsized two years ago to get ready for the Balanced Budget Act, so many cuts have already been made,&uot; said Stevens, past president of the Louisiana Rural Health Association.

&uot;In any case, we’ll do what we have to to minimize the effect on patient care.&uot;

In addition, the state’s health care lobbying groups are suggesting to lawmakers ways more revenue could be raised for DHH, such as increasing inspection and licensing fees, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.