Riverland in talks to take over Ferriday Health Unit services

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 28, 2000

FERRIDAY, La. – Riverland Medical Center is in negotiations with the Department of Health and Hospitals to take over operation of the Concordia Parish Health Unit office in Ferriday, both hospital and DHH officials confirmed Monday.

&uot;They (Riverland officials) have expressed interest in providing services there,&uot; said DHH spokesman Bob Johannessen.

But both Johannessen and Riverland Administrator Vernon Stevens said such talks are still in the early stages. If an agreement is reached, DHH would reimburse Riverland a certain amount for each service hospital personnel provided at the center.

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But what health services Riverland would contract to provide would depend on how much DHH would reimburse for each type of service. And those numbers are still being determined, Stevens said.

&uot;We have to see what the numbers are,&uot; including how much it would cost to provide such services, how many workers would be needed and what reimbursement rates would be, Stevens said.

&uot;We haven’t set a deadline for getting those (numbers) together,&uot; he added. &uot;But it won’t be before Christmas.&uot;

Before such an agreement can be finalized, both the hospital’s board and the Concordia Parish Police Jury, the latter of which owns the Ferriday Health Unit building, would have to give their approval, Stevens said.

Until an agreement is reached — if it is reached — DHH will continue operating the Ferriday Health Unit office. The office provides services such as immunizations, child health screenings, food vouchers under the Women, Infants and Children program, and prenatal care.

Last week, DHH announced that the Concordia Parish Health Unit office in Vidalia will close Dec. 8, and that those served in Vidalia will have to drive to Ferriday to continue receiving Health Unit services.

The Vidalia office gets 233 visits a year, much less than the 2,000 annual visits the department set as the threshold for offices to stay open. The Ferriday office gets 2,654 visits a year.

In all, DHH will remove staff members from 25 health units throughout Louisiana — including Vidalia — as a result of budget cuts.

In parishes that have not found another health care provided to occupy those offices, those offices will be closed.

Given that situation, Johannessen said, the Riverland matter is on the back burner for now. &uot;Our focus is now with the 25 units&uot; that DHH is closing, he said.

No use has yet been found for the Vidalia Health Unit office, which takes up half of the second floor of the old parish courthouse on Carter Street, Police Jury President Charlie Blaney confirmed Monday.

Riverland is not interested in taking over the Vidalia space, Stevens said. Given the fact that the office had little more than 200 visits in a given year, he said, &uot;We couldn’t afford that.&uot;