Police jury votes not to merge health unit with RMC

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2003

VIDALIA, La.&045;The Concordia Parish Police Jury voted against merging the Concordia Health Unit with Riverland Medical Center in a public meeting held Monday.

A motion was made against merging the two entities together but to still implement a preventative care doctor. But Stevens said the doctor would not be able to go into the health unit unless it is part of Riverland.

Dr. John Naponick of the Office of Public Health addressed the board with statistics on health issues in Louisiana and on how the merger could help improve those statistics. Naponick said that most people who are sick will go to an emergency room to get a quick fix instead of visiting a primary care physician. The merger proposed to bring in a full-time pediatrician that could provide preventative care and one-stop service.

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The boardroom was packed with Concordia Parish residents who voiced their disagreement with the merger.

&uot;You don’t change something if it’s working,&uot; Juror Gene Allen said.

&uot;Progress happens sometimes when bad things don’t happen,&uot; Vernon Stevens, Riverland Medical Center administrator, said.

Stevens explained that it wasn’t the hospital’s idea to make the transition &045; it was the idea of the Department of Health and Hospitals, because it wants to cut its budget. If the health unit is not taken over by Riverland, it will eventually be taken over by some other private entity, Stevens said.

One resident was concerned with what would happen to the current health unit employees. Naponick said that all the employees would be guaranteed a job &045; but that it may not be with the same system. Juror Willie Dunbar said he had visited the health unit several times, and it seemed patients like the facility as it stands.

&uot;When ladies went into the health unit, they went in with a smile on their faces and left with a smile on their faces,&uot; Dunbar said.

Other jurors were in favor of the merger because of the recent announcement of budget cuts to DHH. Juror Charlie Blaney said that if the jury doesn’t take advantage of this now, there may be more budget troubles later. Naponick said if local control is not gained over the health unit, budget cuts may force out a health unit in the area completely.

In other business, Shevawn James with the County Agent’s Office presented a petition to the jury to declare all parish public buildings and events smoke-free.

James also introduced a student from Jonesville, Clarence Duncan Jr., to the jury to read his essay on the dangers of smoking tobacco. The jury voted to put the petition on the agenda for the next regular meeting.

Morris White with the Office of Emergency Preparedness also addressed the jury on appointing someone to the mosquito board to allow for his office to apply for grants for the mosquito abatement plan.

&uot;This is a very serious, expensive undertaking and we need the right people on it,&uot; White said. Vidalia, Ferriday, Clayton and Ridgecrest will each appoint a candidate for the mosquito board before the grant deadline on May 28. The grant must be signed by June 9. Later, the jury approved an occupational license for Margie’s Resale Shop.