Health district seeks Earl K. Long Hospital care center in Plaq.

DEIDRE CRUSE, Governmental Reporter

The Capital Area Human Services District (CAHSD) is working with Earl K. Long Hospital to provide free primary care to the uninsured at a one-day-a-week clinic in Plaquemine, Executive Director Jan M. Kasofsky told the Iberville Parish Council recently.

A clinical social worker soon will be available Iberville Parish Health Unit to help direct uninsured or underinsured Iberville residents to the health care they need.

Providing some sort of primary care service locally is important since the state Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) plans to close the local Medicare office, despite objections from Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr., Chief Administrative Officer Edward A. “Lucky” Songy Jr. said.

Health care services in the Plaquemine area sustained a serious blow in May with the closure of the parish’s only hospital, River West Medical Center.

Kasofsky said the agency is seeking a $75,000 state grant to allow Earl K. Long, part of the state’s charity hospital system, to provide a doctor or a nurse practitioner here at least one day a week.

“It’s at least a first step, so people aren’t left with nothing,” the director said.

Jamie Rocques of CASHD local patients would have access to specialty care “because they will already be involved with Earl K. Long.”

“All of us see Iberville Parish as having limited access to primary care, Rocques said. If they can show that people are going to emergency rooms for non-emergency care, it will improve the parish’s chances of attracting a primary care clinic, such as one St. Elizabeth’s Hospital has opened in Ascension Parish.

     CASHD also is working to get medical supplies to provide free screenings particularly for high blood pressure and diabetes – two of the biggest health problems here -- at the Iberville Parish Health Unit on Fridays.

At the request of the district officials, the Parish Council approved adding $60,000 to the parish budget to provide for a full-time social worker at the local health unit.

CASHD received a grant from the state to provide a certified clinical social worker to provide professional counseling one-day a week here after Hurricane Gustav, but that money now has run out.

Social worker Trymica Lotton, who has been working here, will take up the full-time duty.

Rocques said Lotton has been able to get residents referred to primary health care. She has made a significant difference getting a pregnant girl who dropped out of high school supplied with affordable medications and into a GED program that led to employment, Rocques said. She said the social worker also was able to find $46,000 for hearing aids that allowed a 58-year-old deaf trucker to return to work.

The CASHD officials said hey are looking at expanding programs at the Iberville Council on Aging and in East Iberville.

The group is planning a smoking cessation program at the health unit in October, Kasofsky said. A CASHD survey showed 50 percent of local smokers are interested in quitting.