Health officials will meet with Police Jury

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 22, 2001

VIDALIA, La. – Macon Ridge President Buddy Spillers and and a state Health Department official will appear at the Concordia Parish Police Jury’s Monday meeting to discuss the future of the parish’s public health office.

Officials of the Macon Ridge Economic Development Region and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals are in negotiations for Macon Ridge to take over the health office DHH operates in Ferriday.

The Concordia Parish Health Unit office in Vidalia was closed in December due to DHH budget cuts. And the department is looking to contract the operation of health units throughout the state as soon as possible to further save money.

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Because the Police Jury provides about $52,000 a year in tax proceeds to help run the health unit in Ferriday and owns its building, Spillers appeared before the jury earlier this month to get its approval.

But the unit employs several people, some of whom have been working for the State of Louisiana for years, Police Jury President Charlie Blaney pointed out.

Spillers said he met with Health Unit employees on July 13 to assure them that they would not lose their jobs.

&uot;We’re still going to need the services they provide, and some of them have been doing this a long time,&uot;&160;he said.

In the jury’s July 9 meeting, Spillers did acknowledge that some employees probably would not want to stay on with a privately-run clinic because they would lose state retirement benefits.

&uot;We (police jurors)&160;just want to make sure those employees don’t lose their jobs,&uot;&160;Blaney said. &uot;And there are a lot of people here in Concordia Parish that can’t afford health care. We want to make sure those people are being taken care of.&uot;

The jury is not set against Macon Ridge taking over the Health Unit but is seeking more information upon which to base its decision, Blaney said.

If the majority of the parish’s nine police jurors oppose Macon Ridge operating the health office, the takeover won’t happen, Spillers said. Instead, Macon Ridge will build a freestanding clinic elsewhere using government funds.

According to the latest figures, patients visit the Ferriday unit more than 2,600 times a year, but the unit only provides preventive health services.

Those services include family planning and developmental screenings and vaccinations for children and distributes food vouchers as part of the Women, Infants and Children program.

One way to provide primary health services would be locate doctors or physician assistants at the unit, but specific plans have not been finalized, Dr. John Naponick, regional medical director for DHH.