At what cost do we continue to support the hospital?

Dear Editor,
The citizens of St. Charles Parish have always supported, with their vote and their taxes, the operation and maintenance of the St. Charles Parish Hospital in Luling; however, the question now becomes, at what cost?

The results of the April 30 election which includes two proposals regarding financing the hospital and its operation will answer that question.

There are some facts the hospital’s CEO has stated publicly that must be considered. Among these is the fact that our hospital has operated in the RED for nine of the past ten years.  Also, for our hospital to survive, it will probably need to partner with some larger health care provider. The voters already provide funding, through property taxes for EMS, and will be asked to continue to do so.  To separate EMS from the hospital will cost the taxpayers more for the same service.

One request on the ballot is to extend the number of years that the property tax proposal would run to help with obtaining operating capital. It is also to allow the hospital to sell bonds for operating costs, because bank funding has become difficult to obtain. Another request is to increase the mills on property taxes to replace old hospital equipment, which most companies would have included in their operating budget on an ongoing basis. It will also grant the hospital the freedom to purchase pretty much whatever they desire, the old give me a blank check routine.

The purchases of property and buildings, over the last ten plus years, in an effort to grow the hospital’s services has been a financial failure. The scope of operation and the hospital’s future needs to be reviewed and questioned. A privately run hospital experiencing the same financial circumstances would probably have closed by now. My concern is that as the hospital strives to continue to grow with unrealistic goals, it will put the hospital in a position where it cannot be saved.

I, like many in our parish, have family members and friends who use, and rely, on the services offered by the St. Charles Parish Hospital. My concerns regarding the financial health of the hospital do not reflect on the services provided by the employees of the hospital. If you visit or use the hospital you will find that it is a clean, well maintained facility staffed by competent and friendly employees.

I am not sure if this hospital will ever be financially self-sufficient, and it will probably always require a taxpayer funded operating subsidy. Having said all of the above, I will be voting NO to deny the present mode of operation to continue. The hospital CEO and board should then return to the table to come up with a realistic long range plan to operate the hospital our citizens need and deserve, not what may well be some unrealistic future goal of the hospital’s CEO.

That plan should include a property tax to subsidize the operation of the hospital, one which will not continue to grow the size of the operation which has been threatening to bankrupt our hospital, and which may eventually lead to its closure.  There have been community hospitals around the state that have closed when the communities they served could no longer afford to fund its operation. If our hospital continues on the financial path it is presently on, we my find it in that same situation.

Milton J. Allemand, Jr.


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