On Life Support
New Orleans's against-the-odds struggle to care for the infirm
Upgrade. East Jefferson and West Jefferson are both losing about $2.5 million a month, about 10 percent of their monthly revenues. Tulane lost $8.5 million in February alone. "We made the decision after the storm to take all comers, regardless of being able to pay," says Peters. "Our ability to do that isn't going to last much longer."
No one disputes that Louisiana's healthcare system needs an upgrade; Medicare ranks it as having the highest costs in the nation and the lowest quality. "One thing we're trying to do, quite honestly, is not just re-create the system the way it was in Louisiana before," says West Jefferson's Muller. "People couldn't get into the clinics; they weren't well run; they were costly."
But no one is pretending that a new system would be taking care of people anytime soon. In recent months, that realization has begun to strike the employees who have been working extra shifts at places like Ochsner. Nancy Davis has seen even her strongest and most capable employees lose heart. "Everyone kept thinking that we're going to turn the corner; it's going to get better," she says. "It's not."