Louisiana can no longer stand by and allow its Governor's dictatorial rule to destroy our local economies and the quality of life for our communities through the destruction of our public schools and other public services that are paid for by taxpayers and benefit ALL residents of the State of Louisiana.
Bobby Jindal "BELIEVES" as does his Superintendent of Education John White that he has unlimited control of the legislative arm of government and in this last session he has lived up to that expectation. Contact your local legislators and tell them that you will not accept their allegiance to a Governor when they are elected to represent YOU and their other constituents.
Make your voices heard through the process call RECALL which was instituted by a previous legislature for the express purpose of providing a singular means for voters with little power other than their VOTE to remove elected officials who do not fulfill their obligations. Governor Bobby Jindal, Rep. Kevin Pearson, Rep. Cromer and House Speaker Chuck Kleckley are all recall subjects at the current time. Other recalls statewide are pending including ALL who represent St. TAmmany. Visit www.recallbobbyjindal.com to gain access to these petitions through our trained volunteers.
Since I have been ‘all over the media’ in the last week and 1/2, I have received phone calls and e-mail messages from reporters and different government officials about the closure of SELH. I would like to share with you some important, albeit early, conclusions I have made from those encounters.
Let me also say that I am not a big fan of conspiracy theories. Lee Harvey Oswald made a lucky shot - aided by the time he spent in the Marines. Several Apollo missions really landed on the moon – it was not done on a Hollywood movie set. The government is not hiding aliens in Area 51 and… You get my point.
But I have begun to appreciate and confirm that the closure of SELH is not part of some sudden financial typo made by the federal government that put Louisiana in a sudden pickle. Rather, it is part of a sustained campaign by specific politicians and for-profit healthcare companies to close down state hospitals and re-open some of them as privately run, for-profit hospitals. Some other closed state hospitals will be converted into other profitable developments such as high-end residential housing or shopping centers / commercial use. When I say specific politicians… that is what I mean. This is not necessarily a Republican Party – driven plan. It also does not mean that some Democratic politicians are not also participating in this shrouded scheme. Let me explain.
We have been told by Bruce Greenstein that the closure of SELH was necessary because of a suddenly discovered financial typo in the recently passed transportation bills based on other past voluminous federal spending bills. That is not true.
As reported in The Advocate on July16th (attached to this e-mail), the loss of funding was known well before the RESTORE Act / Transportation Bill was passed. Both Democratic and Republican Louisiana politicians were aware of the loss of funding and a compromise was reached to restore the funding. All that needed to happen was for the Jindal Administration to contact the Speaker of the House and confirm that they (Jindal) wanted the funding restored. Instead, there was silence. There was silence despite repeated calls to Jindal’s Chief of Staff – Paul Rainwater – by Democratic and Republican members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation. All that was required to restore the lost $551 million was minimal participation – simple tacit approval – from the Jindal Administration. If that had happened, the cutbacks in LSU’s budget, the closure of SELH, and other cuts would not happen. Their silence on this issue – despite implorations from Louisiana’s Democratic and Republican politicians alike - is deafening.
Why wouldn’t the Jindal administration want money restored? Why not have more federal dollars sent to the state? Isn’t that what politicians are lauded for? Bringing “the bacon” from Washington to their own state’s priority projects? Well, if your priority project is the outsourcing of state healthcare resources from the public sector to private, for-profit, healthcare companies - then bringing home federal bacon would be the last thing you would want to do! Instead, you would want to promote or manufacture every healthcare funding crisis you could possibly find whether it is a mid-year crisis, end of year crisis, Ides of March crisis, etc. Crisis would give you license to close state facilities and outsource contracts to for-profit healthcare companies – especially those that you already have ties to and already contribute money and resources to your political campaigns.
In recent days, former DHH Secretary Alan Levine has been seen in the halls of power in Baton Rouge. He made it clear to legislators that asked him that he was there consulting ‘free of charge’. Since leaving Louisiana, Alan Levine has returned to his home state of Florida and is now part of the senior leadership team of Health Management Associates. Mr. Levine is responsible for operating Health Management Associates hospitals around the south. As my attached MS Word file describes (Health Management Associates-Company Info), Health Management Associates is a for-profit healthcare firm that has taken advantage of healthcare privatization efforts in several states – especially in Medicaid. A recent Fair Disclosure Wire report from September 7th, 2011, discusses privatization opportunities in the Medicaid markets in Louisiana, Kentucky, and other states that Health Management Associates and other companies are poised to take advantage of. Closing down state facilities and making deep cutbacks is LSU’s budget creates opportunities to privatize services that the state is no longer providing because they now don’t have the money. With Levine’s recent re-appearance in Baton Rouge, it is also important to note that this apparent conflict of lobbying the same government that you were just recently a part of does not apply to the Governor’s Office.
So, what is the problem for the Louisiana citizen and taxpayer? There are several. These private for-profit companies highly restrict services and try to avoid treating underserved communities in efforts to maximize profits. They also are highly resistant to providing appropriate settings for education for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals in training. That’s because education itself takes time and money and interferes with their own efforts to increase efficiency. Anyone who has worked at Charity will tell you that devoting time to teaching is not the most efficient use of attending time – only the most important and most rewarding! Also, these private companies often try to get the “cheapest” help that they can find – every increasing the number of patients each doctor must see in each clinic, the number of beds each nurse must cover on the floor, until healthcare quality and service is highly compromised. And you can just forget about any program that doesn’t meet company financial expectations – no matter how needed by the community at large.
In regards to the impact on the severely / persistently mentally ill, private for-profit healthcare companies are just fine with the imprisonment of the mentally ill. It keeps them out of their hospitals and also gives these companies another opportunity to privatize – this time privatizing prisons’ medical clinic.
A final drawback to the Louisiana citizen is that these private companies eventually charge more and more to the state for the services they deliver – increasing rates at each re-negotiation. Like a sub-prime mortgage, they sucker you in with a low-low teaser rate, but then the interest rate and payments explode a few years later when it is time to renegotiate. Many states that have already experimented with privatization of prisons and jails have already found this to be the case leading to some states to cancel their contracts when they realize that it is just cheaper to run things themselves!
I actually believe, though, that the plan is not to privatize SELH as a for-profit hospital. Rather, the plan is to sell the land for development. A reporter recently checked the state land office and was surprised to learn that the land – or much of it - was for sale. As shown in the state’s own Asset Management Report (also attached), the land itself is currently valued at $7.6 million with a total value of nearly $68 million! With the growth in St. Tammany Parish, this could make for a very exclusive gated community that would make English Turn look like the Irish Channel. There has been scuttlebutt about certain politicians with connections to development companies / contractor companies taking advantage of the sale and development. I understand that there have been issued Freedom of Information requests to see just how interested some of these politicians actually are, and exactly when their interests began.
I personally believe that privatization efforts will focus on Central Louisiana State Hospital / Pineville and possibly East Louisiana State Hospital. I have heard that modernization efforts – at the state’s expense - are happening at Central Louisiana State Hospital. These will be undoubtedly be completed just prior to the next round of “unfortunate and unforeseen” DHH cutbacks that have previously caused the closures of New Orleans Adolescent Hospital and Greenwell Springs Hospital and now gravely threaten SELH.
One final motivating reason to privatize is that it shrinks the number of state workers that are on the payroll, weakening the power of civil service advocates and unions representing government / civil service employees. The importance of this cannot be over-stated. For some politicians, civil service unions are a major political force impeding their agenda. Any opportunity to reduce the state rolls of civil service employees further weakens the major civil service unions and their ability to advocate for their positions in the capitol. This, in turn, enhances some politicians’ abilities to push legislation through that would have been opposed and defeated if organized government labor had more influence. One more observation; you can pretty much guarantee that former state facilities – once privatized – will work tirelessly to prevent efforts of their own workforce to unionize, organize, or engage in collective bargaining.
To conclude this e-mail, I do not want to hold myself out as knowing all the facts. I do not fancy myself as some medical “Fox Molder” from The X-Files. Some of what I say above will not hold up in days / weeks to come. Other parts will appear prescient. I am simply a psychiatrist who works largely in the public sector and has seen the care to under-served communities that only the public sector has been able to deliver. I am an academician whose research has shown that the privatization of state mental health facilities appears to deprive the most vulnerable of this state with the sustained help they need, while enriching the profit opportunities of a few out-of-state companies. I am a public health advocate who is deeply concerned about diminishing opportunities to educate and train tomorrow’s healthcare leaders when training facilities are either “shuttered” or “cut to the bone”.
Mordecai Potash, M.D.