River West Ultimatum

Friday, February 13, 2009 - 7:19pm

Government leaders are looking for answers from the management at a struggling Iberville Parish hospital. Our David D’Aquin has been tracking this story.

Hospital managers have had a meeting with the Department of Health and Hospitals. They’re looking at downsizing and that could change the services the hospital provides to residents in Iberville Parish.

Even with a full staff, River West Medical Center is a relatively small hospital with about 80 beds and 200 employees. On average, the hospital only has about 15 patients and just weeks ago, employees’ paychecks bounced and then the entire night crew skipped out on work, leaving the hospital with few options.

Lianne Firth is a nurse at River West and says, “We did the best thing we could which was to transfer them to a place where they could be cared for properly.” Patients were moved out to Baton Rouge General. In the meantime, DHH gave the hospital emergency cash to help clear paychecks. Now DHH and Iberville Parish leaders are telling River West management they’ll have to communicate.

Hospital leaders say they’ll have to cut staff to stay open and they could make changes to their services as well. If they do that, they’ll have to give DHH at least 15 days notice so they can let other healthcare providers know.

Roxanne Davis lives in Plaquemine and explains, “My mother, she’s very sick, and if they close this hospital down, we’re going to have to travel all the way to Baton Rouge which at times is not very convenient when they are sick and not just a little illness.” Folks who live in Plaquemine are clear; they want to keep the hospital because if time’s of the essence, they may not have anywhere else to turn for help.

The hospital owes the state about $400,000 and right now it’s not clear what will be cut. Statewide there is a shortage of medical workers and the Louisiana Hospital Association says workers who are laid off shouldn’t have any trouble finding a job nearby. We’ll keep you posted on what happens to the hospital.