Infants Born to Hispanic Immigrants in New Orleans Straining City’s Health Infrastructure
Hundreds of infants born to Hispanic immigrants who moved to the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina to work on reconstruction have placed additional strains on the region's health infrastructure, the New York Times reports. An increased number of pregnant women caused local clinics to reach capacity as much of the state-financed Charity Hospital system, which provided care to most of the uninsured and low-income residents in the area, remains closed, according to the Times. The two local health units that are administered by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals from January through mid-November admitted more than 1,200 pregnant women, the majority of whom were Hispanic. "Before [Hurricane Katrina], only 2% were Hispanic; now 96% are Hispanic," Beth Perriloux -- head nurse at the state health and hospitals clinic in Metairie, La. -- said. Andre du Plessis, Chief Operating Officer for Tulane-Lakeside Hospital, said physicians at the hospital are delivering 215 to 240 infants per month, which is 60% to 70% more than they delivered before Hurricane Katrina. "Approximately 20% to 25% of the babies are Hispanic," du Plessis said, adding, "Pre-Katrina, we largely didn't have a Hispanic population." Many Hispanic women do not have private health insurance and cannot afford to pay for prenatal care or delivery services, and nonemergency Medicaid is not available to undocumented immigrants or legal immigrants who have been in the country for fewer than five years, the Times reports. Kevin Work, an ob-gyn who started a private practice a year before Hurricane Katrina, said hospitals will deliver infants of immigrant women only if they arrive in labor through the emergency department, in which case emergency Medicaid covers up to a 24-hour hospital stay for a vaginal delivery and a 48-hour stay for a caesarean section. Many immigrant pregnant women can go to a few charitable clinics that provide low-cost prenatal care and do not ask immigration status, the Times reports. Work said he is offering a prenatal care package costing about $800 for the full pregnancy term, and he is advertising the package on two Spanish-language radio stations (Porter, New York Times, 12/11).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.