Missouri stroke, heart attack program in limbo

Missouri stroke, heart attack program in limbo
Posted at 4:24 PM, Jul 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-17 17:24:09-04

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri program aimed at connecting stroke, heart attack and trauma patients with the best care as soon as possible is in limbo following a budget cut by Gov. Mike Parson.

At issue is about $154,000 vetoed by Parson this fiscal year for a program that designates hospitals as stroke, heart attack and trauma centers. The move spurred backlash from lawmakers, hospitals and groups such as the American Heart Association.

Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams told frustrated lawmakers on Tuesday that his agency supported cutting the funding as part of a plan to pay for it with hospital fees instead. But that was not implemented by the time the budget cut took effect.

Following outcry over Parson's cut, Williams on Tuesday told the House Budget Committee that the agency in the meantime can continue paying for the program with existing funds.

House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick said it's too late for that. He said Parson's veto effectively killed the program — at least temporarily — and warned that continuing it without legislative approval on the spending would bring "significant consequences."

"We're fighting over something that we wanted to do, but then they said they didn't want to do, but now they want to do and we're telling them they can't do it because they vetoed it," Fitzpatrick said. "It's kind of like twilight zone."

Fitzpatrick said the program can only continue if lawmakers override Parson's veto in September or approve supplemental funding when the next legislative session begins in January.

Williams and Parson have maintained that services won't stop. Williams said two hospitals are up for recertification between now and September, but he said those can be rescheduled.

Parson on Monday told reporters he doesn't expect any change in services because of the cut.

"The services provided by the time-critical diagnosis system are not going away," Parson spokesman Steele Shippy said in a Tuesday statement. "The Department of health has a $1.4 billion budget and the Governor vetoed $153,000. We have a viable plan to move forward with the intent to find a more stable, long-term funding source than operating from general revenue."