A cost saving decision by Morehouse General Hospital is not sitting well with at least one local dentist and some citizens.
In a letter sent to patients dated September 1, Dr. Chad Gardner states that Morehouse General Hospital will cease all dental services on October 1. Gardener has utilized the services of the hospital to anesthetize his child patients in order to do certain procedures. His letter states that what this means to his patients is that they will now be referred to elsewhere for these procedures.
"Your child will likely be referred to Monroe, West Monroe, or Ruston and placed on a waiting list," Gardner writes. "Also, some of the offices used as a referral use papoose boards instead of putting your child safely and comfortably to sleep. What this means is they are strapped down and restrained with their mouth propped open so their teeth can be fixed while completely awake. I would never do this to my child or anyone else's child except in an extreme emergency..." The children in question are 5 years of age and younger.
Gardner's letter implores his patients to contact Derrick Frazier, the CEO of the hospital as, according to the letter, "the decision to cancel dental hospital services was made by Mr. Derrick Frazier."
The letter also urges the reader to contact their Police Jury representative, as "the police jury has the authority to override Mr. Frazier's decision."
Frazier spoke to the Morehouse Parish Police Jury at their monthly meeting Monday evening, after jurors requested he do so after many have received calls about the issue.
Frazier told the police jury that the hospital loses money on dental procedures and in fact had lost $82,000 last year on them. According to Frazier, since the hospital pays all the overhead for the facility and anesthesiology, and are not reimbursed for the actual amount of the cost involved, they cannot continue the practice and continue to lose money on the procedures.
Police jury members asked Frazier about alternatives to the procedures being done at the hospital and he stated that Dr, Gardner could do them in his office, When asked, Gardner stated that it would be too dangerous to do the procedures in his office as he does not have the equipment to perform them and by doing the procedures at the hospital, medical help is on site should an emergency occur. Gardner said that two young children had died while being sedated in Texas this year. Frazier did mention to the jury that one way of continuing the services would be some sort of cost sharing arrangement.
Gardner said that the hospital never consulted him before making the decision to cease the procedures.
"I don't want the hospital to go down," Gardner said. But he felt a compromise could have been reached if the hospital would have communicated with him.
MGH released a statement on the issue of dental services on Tuesday that stated,"With changes in the healthcare industry, Morehouse—like many other community hospitals across the country—is forced to make difficult decisions for the greater good of the facility. One of these decisions was to make a change in dental procedures. It is unfortunate that the hospital realized a loss of $82,000 in the fiscal year 2017 on dental procedures. We must continue to operate our hospital as efficiently as possible in order to keep the hospital in a good position for the future. Morehouse is willing to continue doing dental procedures if losses are shared between provider and the hospital."
The statement went of to clarify several issues relative to the dental services. It states, "As clarification on recent communication that did not come from our hospital:
Morehouse General Hospital isn’t the only facility in Northeast Louisiana that offers anesthesia to perform procedure.
As clarification, kids will be able to attend Head Start, a program that serves to find other providers to perform procedures.
Our citizens and family members have other options in the community:
Dentist who is able to perform procedure in office
PNS in Monroe"
For its part, the Police Jury had one of their attorney's, Jay Mitchell, on hand at their Monday meeting to explain that contrary to what Gardner's letter stated, the police jury cannot simply override the decision to halt the services. The Police Jury's responsibility, Mitchell explained, is to create the hospital district and to appoint the hospital commissioners, the commissioners, and the CEO actually control the day to day operations of the hospital.