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Gov. Edwards makes offers on LSU hospital deals

by Minden Press-Herald

BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration will make its offer Thursday to the operator of LSU’s hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe for a renegotiated contract with the state, as the governor pushes to rewrite all the LSU hospital privatization deals.

Edwards’ lead negotiator on the contracts, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, said Thursday’s presentation to the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana is the last offer to be made.

Renegotiated contracts already have been proposed in closed-door meetings with the other providers that took over the safety net services LSU previously provided to the poor and uninsured across Louisiana, he said.

Dardenne wouldn’t provide details about what changes are being sought in the north Louisiana hospitals’ deal — or any others. But he said negotiations are over and hospital operators can either take or leave the reworked arrangements offered.

“We’re making modifications that we think are fair and appropriate and reasonable. And we have every hope that we will retain all the partners,” Dardenne said Wednesday.

And if some of the hospital operators don’t agree to the new terms? “Then they won’t be our partner any longer and we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it,” Dardenne said.

Former Gov. Bobby Jindal privatized nine LSU-run hospitals and their clinics through no-bid contracts, with the earliest deal starting in April 2013. In most instances, the management company of a nearby hospital took over operations. Three contracts closed an LSU hospital — in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and Pineville — and shifted its services to private hospitals.

The Edwards administration says the deals were too hastily slapped together, with terms that aren’t favorable to the state.

“None of the partners are happy. They all wanted more money, and they’re not getting as much as they wanted,” Dardenne said of the renegotiated proposals.

But he insisted the terms being offered by the Edwards administration are fair. Dardenne said he hopes to unveil those terms sometime next week, if the hospital and clinic operators have agreed to the contract changes in principle by then.

The north Louisiana deal has been the most difficult to negotiate, Dardenne said, “because there is a history and there is a contentious relationship and there are a lot of strong feelings” between the research foundation and LSU leaders.

LSU System President F. King Alexander described the arrangement to have the foundation, known as BRF, run the Monroe and Shreveport hospitals as dysfunctional from its start in October 2013.

Alexander said the research foundation, which runs the two hospitals as the University Health System, doesn’t have the resources or experience, isn’t paying bills on time and isn’t providing enough support to the LSU medical school in Shreveport.

BRF and University Health leaders say Alexander’s accusations are untrue and LSU’s Shreveport medical school has financial problems of its own making. They say the research foundation’s hospital management has improved health care.

The dispute over hospital management and its effect on the Shreveport medical school has divided lawmakers in the area. Edwards met Wednesday with the north Louisiana legislative delegation ahead of the offer that will be presented to BRF for a renegotiated contract.
Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Jonesboro, said the governor assured lawmakers in the meeting that “he’s not going to allow the medical school to fail” and that he wanted to keep the school in Shreveport, amid concerns that it might be moved south. The terms of the reworked deal being offered to the research foundation, McFarland said, weren’t shared with lawmakers.

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