State budget cuts could affect NICUs across Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Governor Bobby Jindal's proposed budget cuts could have serious impacts on the neonatal intensive care units across the state.

The fund in question is called the Hospital Outlier Fund and helps pay for serious care that exceeds certain amounts.

"We have a healthy respect for the fact that the Governor's Office and our lawmakers are left with the charge of balancing the budget," said Laurel Kitto, Director of the Intensive Care Nursery at Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge. "We definitely have a respect for that, but we do not think it should be on the backs of our most fragile citizens and certainly on their families. For us, that's intensive care babies."

Officials at other intensive care units across the state have expressed similar concerns. The Jindal administration justified the possible cuts.

"The state spends more than $200 million annually on additional medical services, including NICU stays related to premature births," said Kristy Nichols, Commissioner of Administration. "We will continue to provide a base of funding for NICU. The funding in question is supplemental and we will work with the legislature to see if the program can continue if dollars are available."

If those dollars are not available, families might be forced to seek care in other parts of Louisiana and maybe even out of state. Wendy French had a premature baby who needed extensive care and says that could be a huge burden on families in their most vulnerable of times.

"It makes me sad to think that maybe others won't have the same type of care that I had for my daughter," French said. "I know that it was life-giving for us."

The cuts to the program are part of a larger effort to close a budget hole worth more than a billion dollars.

"I venture to say that a lot of the lawmakers that we have in this state, have either had children that had an intensive care experience or had someone very close to them have intensive care experience. So this does not just affect the poor and support whatever services we can offer them, we will not be able to offer for the insured as well," Kitto said.

"The more that we do here at the beginning of life, the easier life is all the way through," French said. "It's heartbreaking for me to know that people may not have the best care they could get in own our community."

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