New Orleans Initiative To Create ‘Medical Homes’ for Residents Aims To End Health Care Disparities
New Orleans health clinics "are vying for $100 million in federal funding for primary care" in an "attempt to become 'medical homes'" for low-income residents and reduce residents' reliance on Louisiana State University's Charity Hospital system, USA Today reports. According to USA Today, "If the initiative takes root, the network will become the first citywide model of a new approach to providing colorblind medical care for poor people in New Orleans and, ultimately, nationwide."
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, charity hospitals in New Orleans closed permanently or for an extended period of time, and physicians and nurses relocated outside the city. The hurricane "laid bare the city's two-tiered medical system, where people with means can get top-notch care at one of a number of community hospitals," while those "without means, mostly black, were shunted into Charity," where patients waited "hours to see a doctor and weeks to see a specialist, and doctors-in-training provided much of the care," USA Today reports.
Donald Erwin, president and CEO of St. Thomas Community Health Center in New Orleans, said, "What's happening here is the same thing that's happening in every urban area in America. Katrina stripped the façade away."
The state Legislature, LSU and supporters of the charity system have announced plans for a new $1.2 billion hospital by 2012, but community clinics are lobbying for funds that will be distributed in September to establish medical homes for residents. Under the medical home model, people will receive care from physicians and nurses "who know them and can monitor all of their care," according to USA Today.
The clinics will provide primary care, screening tests, mental health services and referrals to specialists, and patients' progress will be tracked through electronic health records. According to Ann Beal of the Commonwealth Fund, studies have shown that medical homes can end racial disparities in health care, something no other health care model has shown (Sternberg, USA Today, 8/23).
Additional resources from the Kaiser Family Foundation on health care in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are available online, including new audio interviews with Dr. Cathi Fontenot, medical director of the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans, and Clayton Williams, director of Urban Health Initiatives for the Louisiana Public Health Institute, on the current health care situation in New Orleans.