BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration appeared to be in a stalemate Monday with the manager of the state-owned charity hospitals in Monroe and Shreveport, after a deadline passed without the two sides reaching terms on a renegotiated management deal.
The Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana has refused to sign off on financing, physician payment and other changes sought by the Edwards administration to alter the contract that has been in place since 2013.
A Friday deadline passed without the foundation, known as BRF, agreeing to the terms. The foundation’s leadership hasn’t responded to The Associated Press requests for comment about its refusal to sign the paperwork.
The governor’s administration also remained tight-lipped Monday about how it will respond to the missed deadline.
“We have not reached an agreement with BRF. There is no signed (agreement). The state is considering its options moving forward,” Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, the governor’s chief negotiator, said in a statement.
BRF is operating the Monroe and Shreveport hospitals under a contract struck by former Gov. Bobby Jindal that has been criticized as unfavorable and costly to the state.
The Edwards administration is seeking to add fixed dollar amounts that each hospital can receive, new data collection requirements on patient care, certain payment rates for the services of LSU’s physicians and other adjustments.
It’s unclear which provisions have drawn objections from the research foundation — or what leverage the state has to force BRF to agree to new terms since an existing contract remains in place.
Jindal privatized nine LSU-run hospitals and their clinics that cared for Louisiana’s poor and uninsured 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 hospitals — in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and Pineville — closed and their services were shifted to private hospitals.
All the other hospital and clinic operators have signed renegotiated agreements with the Edwards administration that include similar terms to what is being sought with BRF. Those agreements were released Monday.
In addition to the spending caps, data requirements and LSU doctor payment rates, the Baton Rouge agreement includes provisions for Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center to open a new emergency room in the northern part of the city, with the state putting $5.5 million toward the expansion. The state also is agreeing to give Our Lady of the Lake $18 million for back-owed payments that had been disputed.
In the New Orleans agreement, the hospital operator has agreed to develop a business plan to “utilize excess capacity at the hospital” for increased mental health services.
The terms are contained in short-term documents that expire at the end of the current budget year. The Edwards administration expects the terms to be included in amended long-term contracts to be drawn up in the coming months.
The privatization deal in north Louisiana has been the most contentious partnership. The foundation hadn’t run a patient care facility before taking over the LSU hospitals.
LSU System President F. King Alexander described the arrangement as dysfunctional from its start in October 2013. He 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.