Support LSU Health: A Physician Perspective

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We tend to write and talk about the scintillating, and much has been written in news articles and this opinion page over the last few months about lawsuits and conspiracy theories in healthcare in our community.  The opinions rendered have generally focused on the justification of the side people take based on their evaluation of the different perspectives of BRF, Willis-Knighton, and LSU Health.  The real subject of importance – putting together the resources to sustain a thriving academic health sciences center in our community – has not had as much ink.

The reality beyond the headlines really comes down to one question – How can the state of Louisiana and the LSU system build a sustainable model of funding for LSU Health Shreveport that supports medical education and thus ensures quality patient care in our community.

When physicians are faced with a patient with a complex medical condition, different specialists work together to share expertise and develop a plan for that patient’s care.  That initial plan often changes as conditions evolve.  When there is a change of condition, a change in approach is taken.

The same approach is needed in addressing the complex financial issues impacting LSU Health. We ask our leaders to accelerate working together to develop a plan that provides the financial security required for the school to thrive.

At the heart of the ongoing media stories is a disagreement between BRF and LSU Health Shreveport and the LSU System over the funding of the school.  This financial issue has remained unresolved since the rollout of Governor Jindal’s healthcare reform policy.  The lack of resolution has left LSU Health with limited reserves and a constant search for revenue to carry out its mission of teaching, research, and the delivery of healthcare.

This complex problem has no silver bullet solution.  If there was an easy solution, that solution would be in place by now.  The state of Louisiana does not have the money to ride in on a white horse and satisfy everyone.  The same is true for the LSU System, BRF, Willis-Knighton, Ochsner, and Christus Health Systems.

The common recipe for sustainable success of academic health centers in today’s world is the same in Shreveport as it is in academic health centers across the country. The recipe is the combination of priority investment by the state in healthcare and medical education along with partnerships involving multiple health systems, higher education institutions, research interests, and other academic medical centers.

One thing is very clear.  The current financial arrangement for the school is not working.  Without change, the worst fears of the community could be realized.

State leaders have recognized the need to take a look at fresh solutions, and they are to be commended for taking this very important step. Well-informed people with good intentions are mediating the dispute and change will be the result. Done right, the solution will involve multiple partnerships creating depth for financial support and medical education.

Healthcare worker shortages exist nationwide, but Northwest Louisiana has been less impacted because of the presence of LSU Health. As a result of the institutions teaching and training component, well-trained healthcare providers are in abundance in Northwest Louisiana, yielding outstanding patient care to our citizens.

More than half of the physicians practicing in this community were educated or trained at our medical school.  Physicians in our community know the importance of the success of LSU Health as a basis for continuing and expanding on improvements to this community’s healthcare system.

There are no easy solutions, but the time to make the tough decisions are well past due.

LSU Health needs a plan that creates financial security for the school, a school which has been the foundation of our healthcare system in Northwest Louisiana for close to fifty years. With appropriate funding, LSU Health can continue to be a beacon of healthcare, medical education and research – all of which dramatically impact our regional economy.

Carrying out the mission of LSU Health will require putting together all our current community resources and finding new ones. Instead of being divided in our community, let’s focus on building on the past success of LSU Health Shreveport and how we can help this institution reach the incredible potential we all know it holds.

Dr. Phillip Rozeman is a practicing cardiologist and past President of the Shreveport Medical Society