BATON ROUGE — Locked in a dispute over their state contract, leaders of the safety-net hospital operator in north Louisiana have lodged new allegations in their disagreement with state officials, accusing Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration of discrimination in their payment formula.
Officials with BRF, the company managing the state-owned hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe as University Health System, are accusing the Edwards administration of giving better terms to the hospital operator in New Orleans.
“North Louisiana hospitals get only 32 cents per patient for every dollar received by New Orleans. We will fight for a funding model that treats the citizens of north Louisiana fairly, and provides for adequate health care for those who need it most,” Malcolm Murchison, BRF chairman, said in a statement.
BRF is seeking to hang onto its deal with the state, amid breach-of-contract accusations from the Edwards administration and LSU, whose doctors and medical students work and train at the safety-net facilities.
Edwards’ lead negotiator with the safety-net hospital operators, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, said BRF’s discrimination allegations are “false claims.” He described them as a “public relations offensive” that appeared after the company was accused of not meeting the terms of its agreement and refused to sign a reworked deal.
“I guess (they’re) trying to justify the shortcomings they’re having. But this argument about discrimination and this whole barrage of information that they have fired off in the past month or so is brand new,” Dardenne said.
LSU wouldn’t comment on the BRF accusations, saying the divvying of dollars among the safety-net hospitals and clinics is a state issue.
The north Louisiana hospital operator has placed documents on its website it says shows the disparities between how the Shreveport and Monroe facilities are treated compared to the medical center in New Orleans. The unfairness allegations also were a focus during BRF’s annual meeting this month.
“It’s wrong. It’s discriminatory. It threatens our existence,” Steve Skrivanos, chairman of University Health, said in a video of the meeting posted on Facebook.
Dardenne said BRF’s calculations of patient days and cost per patient are skewed.
He said the Louisiana Children’s Medical Center, which operates the New Orleans safety-net hospital and clinics, has medical students and graduate medical education programs across multiple hospitals in the region, not just at the state-owned facility. But Dardenne said BRF officials aren’t taking that into account for their comparisons.
“They’re not including the entirety of the operation,” he said.
BRF is operating the Monroe and Shreveport hospitals under a 2013 no-bid contract struck by former Gov. Bobby Jindal.
The Edwards administration and LSU have started a legal process that could lead to BRF’s ouster as hospital manager.
The parties are negotiating to determine if an agreement can be reached. BRF said it is prepared to fight in court any attempt to remove it.
In his breach-of-contract letter, LSU System President F. King Alexander said BRF doesn’t work with LSU to ensure high-quality graduate medical education; doesn’t pay its bills on time, jeopardizing hospital operations and the financial stability of the LSU medical school; and doesn’t meet acceptable patient care quality and safety standards.
Dardenne said the administration is talking to Ochsner Health System and other entities that could either come in to help BRF run the hospitals or replace them if needed.