Nataline Sarkysian And Louisiana

Heartbreaking is the story of Nataline Sarkysian, the 17-year-old for whom CIGNA denied payment for a liver transplant, then reversed its decision when it was too late. My intent here is not to focus on this, because it already has been well-diaried, but to bring up a stunning parallel between this human tragedy and what has been happening to New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana.

This is the parallel: the same way CIGNA in effect killed Nataline by neglect, BushCo has been doing the same to Louisiana ever since New Orleans’ levees broke. Thursday’s violent suppression of the protest at City Hall–on which I plan to diary more extensively in the next few days–is only a symptom of this.

Louisiana post-Katrina can be compared to a terminallly-ill patient needing life-saving treatment, and BushCo’s federal government to a mean-spirited, bean-counting insurance company that’s denying payment. Or paying only for Band-Aid remedies. So New Orleans is being allowed to rot and Louisiana is being allowed to die. And I worry that Jan. 21, 2009 (optimistically assuming a Democrat who has the best interests of New Orleans and Louisiana wins) could be too late.

Here’s one example of a Band-Aid remedy: Because Katrina forced many evacuees to relocate in Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Lafayette and other cities elsewhere in the state, Louisiana is now in the grip of a painful epidemic of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental and emotional ills. This is statewide because when the evacuees resettled, they brought with them their traumas, losses and other “baggage.” On top of this they’ve had to deal with insurance companies, FEMA, and the Road Home program. All of which is frustrating and exhausting.

So now these agonized evacuees (as well as people now in New Orleans who also are suffering from problems) are seeking treatment for them. But because Katrina destroyed so many mental health facilities and those elsewhere in the state are strained to the breaking point, Louisiana has insufficient resources to ease the pain of the afflicted–waiting lists for mental health services are months long.

And what has BuchCo done? The federal government has been funding Louisiana Spirit, a counseling service. This sounds good, but it is a Band-Aid remedy. According to federal regulations Louisiana Spirit is not allowed to pay doctors–who are the only people who can prescribe medications and other intensive treatments. Louisiana Spirit is beneficial for someone whose issues so far have been minor who merely needs someone to talk to. And counseling can also prevent a minor issue from becoming one severe enough to need mental health treatment. But not for someone already seriously ill. So for Louisiana BushCo’s funding this service has been like giving someone who has cancer only pain-killers–making her feel more comfortable without treating the source of her pain, that is killing her.

As noted–that is but one example–citing them all would make this diary several times as long. It’s time for the Democrats (whether they’re presidential candidates or members of Congress) to stand up for Louisiana and bring her the help she and her people so desperately need–not more Band-Aids from BushCo. And to do this before it’s too late.


Skip to comment form

  1. One day when I was bemoaning the band-aid approach I sometimes feels is part of our work with urban kids and families an on-line friend share the song “Don’t Dream its Over” by Crowded House. And especially the line:

    Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup.

  2. … mental or otherwise, b.rox points to a front page story in the Times-Picayune … a story b.rox had predicted back in November:

    For most of the year a rumor has circulated in our neighborhood regarding the Lindy Boggs Medical Center. That’s the hospital at Jeff Davis and Bienville which old-timers still call Mercy. It’s the same hospital that was knocked out of commission by flooding. Most recently it was in the news when Tenet Health Care sold the property to Victory Real Estate Investments for redevelopment as a massive retail outlet.

    After Katrina, when Oschner bought a number of properties from Tenet, they took a pass on the Lindy Boggs facility. And that’s where the rumor comes in: Supposedly, as a part of the big deal between these giants, a covenant was put on the Lindy Boggs facility stipulating that it could not be sold to any health care provider for some number of years.

    Standard business procedure, eliminating potential competition. But in a community recovering from a massive disaster, it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth

    The plan is to have mixed residential/business, including “big box stores” in this area.  The T-P confirmed the “covenant” b.rox referred to in his November post.

    The Times-Picayune story also goes on to say that a group of doctors also bid for this land but were locked out due to this “covenant”

    The pact between Ochsner and Tenet has stifled at least one attempt to revive the hospital, said Robert Kenny, the former president of Lindy Boggs’ medical staff and part of a group of doctors who offered to buy the facility last year. Kenny said his group was rejected by Tenet, which sold Lindy Boggs in May for $9.4 million to a Georgia real estate firm that plans to use the land for a larger mixed-use retail development.

    Critics say the agreement smacks of protectionism by Ochsner and limits the health care options of residents of Mid-City, which more than two years after Katrina does not have a full-service hospital.

    “I see it as a good business move for Ochsner, but I see it as a maneuver that is against the public good,” said Dr. Brobson Lutz, a former New Orleans health director and vocal critic of Ochsner. “I think it’s an attempt for them to corner available health care facilities and to keep out competition.”  

    This kind of story is happening all around NOLA, and if we don’t make a louder noise about it, nationally, folks are going to make a big fat profit off the suffering of a great city.

    The NOLA blogs are doing heroic work in getting out important information — but we need to do more to make this a national issue.

  3. Please save New Orleans!

Comments have been disabled.