We must fight to save our hospital

Published 4:45 am Saturday, April 23, 2016

BY Dr. Roger Casama

Guest Columnist

The recent news regarding the possibility of Our Lady of the Angels Hospital being affected by some financial cuts as a result of almost a $1 billion deficit in the state budget is quite ominous. Although, there is no exact certainty that it will happen, the consequences will certainly affect the lives of many people of our parish, including many patients, health care providers such as physicians, resident-physicians in specialty training, nurses, nurse-practitioners, physician-assistants, technologists, social workers and counselors, medical secretaries, and ancillary health care workers.

As coroner of Washington Parish for almost 28 years now, and a private practitioner for 45 years, I have seen the many changes and transformations in our city’s health care facilities — the Washington St. Tammany Regional Medical Center, and the old Bogalusa Community Medical Center, and now Our Lady of the Angels Hospital. Over the years, our local health care institutions have served the people of our communities extremely well. We have a lot of elderly patients and citizens who are economically deprived and who are very dependent on the services of our local hospital. Many of them are old and decrepit and cannot travel very far to nearby hospitals out of the parish, simply because we do not have adequate public or private transportation services. Many cannot afford the expense of travel and they will undoubtedly suffer indiscriminately.

Our hospital is manned by excellent health and business administrators, specialist physicians, primary care practitioners, LSU medical residents and highly experienced nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and technologists, etc., and they are the major source of superior care for our people and our communities. The “cut” in funding will surely and unequivocally affect the health and welfare of our people in our area. We need to contact our elected leaders and implore them to be more than vigorous in helping avert the projected “cuts” because the consequences will be very dire and disastrous for our people. Not only will medical care suffer, but also professionals and business people will be affected and eventually consider leaving our city or our parish.

I am writing to State Sen. Beth Mizell, State Rep. Malinda White, Chief of Staff Ben Nevers, Washington Parish President Richard “Ned” Thomas, Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette, Franklinton Mayor Wayne Fleming, Sheriff Randy Seal, Clerk of Court Johnny Crain, Assessor Jimbo Stevenson, Congressman Ralph Abraham and other influential elected leaders to join us in our united efforts to vigorously support and maintain our excellent self-run health care facility, Our Lady of the Angels Hospital. Every resident in this city and parish are potential patients and we do not know when we will need its services. We cannot afford to have many health care services now and in the future to be curtailed. The consequences will surely be dire. We all need to be united in our vigilance and support of our local facility.

Alone we can do very little. United we can do a lot. Please help and join me in this endeavor to preserve and protect our only existing health care facility in our city. We need our institution to be solid and financially stable, for all our sake.

May God almighty continue to bless our communities, our people and our leaders.

Roger A. Casama, M.D., is the coroner for Washington Parish.