Gov't: Louisiana university to get funds

Shortfall that could cause faculty layoffs will be addressed, says the state

By | November 22, 2005

Government officials are working to close the budget deficit that representatives of Hurricane Katrina-battered Louisiana State University said last week could lead to medical school faculty cuts, according to a state representative.

LSU "will not be in danger of imminent shutdown for three or four months," Bill Black, director of research and governmental accountability in the Louisiana division of administration in Baton Rouge told The Scientist. "But we need to do some work to make sure that doesn't happen."

LSU medical school Dean Larry Hollier told The Scientist last week that a $79 million gap in the School of Medicine's roughly $240 million annual budget could put large numbers of research jobs at risk. The shortfall represents income from graduate medical education and patient care activities that failed to materialize after the loss of five major teaching hospitals in New Orleans.

To address the situation, Black said that state hospitals are negotiating for two additional leases that would increase their capacity to 200 beds, providing extra work for faculty and residents at the medical school. Still, in a "slightly evacuated" city like New Orleans, it's unlikely the hospitals will have enough patients to warrant returning the bed count to its previous levels, Black noted.

In addition, the state legislature plans to hold a special session in January to address potential relief packages for the medical school. "We will start in the next several days working with (LSU) to identify how this package will be structured," Black said.

He noted that the school will hopefully be able to maintain its faculty, now largely dispersed throughout the state, then bring them back on-site once that is rebuilt. Still, he cautioned that discussions are still very "preliminary," and he could not predict whether the school would receive enough money to avoid mass layoffs.

Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) did not return requests for comment.

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