Hospital Paychecks Bounce

Tough economic times are taking a toll on a local hospital

Thursday, January 29, 2009 - 10:28am

The only hospital in Iberville Parish wrote out bad checks to about 40 employees. A hospital spokesman says tough economic times are taking a toll on the hospital. The hospital had to shut down after Hurricane Gustav and it’s back open, now folks who live in Plaquemine hope it’ll stay open.

It’s a relatively small hospital without about 80 beds and 200 employees, but many residents aren’t sure about the fate of River West Medical Center now that employee paychecks have bounced.

Maria David says she’s hopeful it’s not a sign the hospital may close. “Right now, I’m pregnant, and I’d have to travel all the way to Baton Rouge to have a baby. I live all the way in Pigeon by Morgan City.” Even getting to River West is a drive for her. For David, the thought of having to drive that far to have her baby isn’t comforting.

Hospital officials say they’re working to turn things around, but after Gustav pushed through in September, they had to shut down for repairs. Bryan Bogle, CEO of River West Medical Center says, “The business interruption proceeds have been less than enough to sustain the operations.”

Recent layoffs at the Dow plant down the road and an increase in the number of uninsured people who need medical care adds fuel to the fire. “When the show up at our emergency room, we have to take care of them, regardless of their ability to pay.”

The hospital has received emergency cash from DHH and Medicaid and hopes to stay open. “Any small town needs some kind of medical center close by.” Residents say they feel safe knowing there’s a hospital nearby.

Marvin, an employee in Plaquemine, says “I would like it to be here in case something happens to me they could rush me there instead of trying to take me to Baton Rouge or somewhere else.”

Hospital officials are working to get more cash from their business interruption insurance policy to make ends meet. As we said, the hospital is getting emergency cash from DHH and Medicaid. They hope to have new checks for the employees by tomorrow.