BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposal to close LSU’s public hospital in Pineville and shift its services to private hospitals won the backing Friday of the university Board of Supervisors, in the ninth and final privatization deal for its health facilities.
The plan for LSU’s Huey P. Long Medical Center in central Louisiana also needs support from the Louisiana Legislature in the 2014 regular session, under a law that requires lawmakers’ approval to shutter any university-run public hospital.
The companies that run CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Hospital and Rapides Regional Medical Center would take over the services at Huey P. Long before the end of the current fiscal year on June 30, according to the proposed contract.
LSU officials said the deal will improve the state’s health care services for the poor and uninsured in the region and bring back services that had been eliminated at the public hospital because of budget cuts.
“We’ve come up with a model and a plan that meets the goals of preserving the safety net mission of Huey P. Long,” said Hugh Mighty, vice chancellor for clinical affairs at the LSU Health Sciences Center-Shreveport, which oversees the Pineville hospital.
The LSU board approved the privatization deal without objection, calling it a better alternative than building a $200 million replacement for the aging, 75-year-old Huey P. Long Medical Center.
“It is the right solution for central Louisiana,” said board member Blake Chatelain, who lives in the area.
Stephen Wright, president and CEO of CHRISTUS Health Louisiana Ministries, told the board that the private hospitals intend to return service levels to what was available to Huey P. Long patients 18 months ago, restoring eliminated programs like orthopedics.
If approved by lawmakers, it will be the ninth university-run hospital to be privatized. LSU would continue to run one hospital, Lallie Kemp Medical Center in Tangipahoa Parish.
Jindal chose to impose most of a federal Medicaid financing reduction to the state on the LSU public hospital system and has pushed to privatize university-run hospitals and clinics. The Republican governor estimates the privatization deals will save Louisiana $125 million this year.
Huey P. Long Medical Center does little medical training, unlike many of the other university-run hospitals.
Under the agreement approved Friday, inpatient and emergency room services will be split between CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini and Rapides Regional. CHRISTUS will take over all inpatient psychiatric services and plans to expand the beds available for such care, with the state helping to pay for the facility’s construction.
The state will pay the two private hospitals $49 million for the uninsured care.
Questions remained, however, about how outpatient services would be handled under the plan. Huey P. Long’s clinics would be closed, and the two private hospitals are expected to build new clinics in the region.
Mighty said the state will pay the majority of those construction costs, but he didn’t know how much that would be, when the clinics would open or whether CHRISTUS and Rapides Regional would be charged to lease the clinics from the state.
Michael DiResto, a spokesman for Jindal’s Division of Administration, said the administration plans to use $15 million in construction money set aside for Huey P. Long facilities to pay for the new clinics, hoping to have them ready by the end of the fiscal year.
“We are still in the process of evaluating the most timely and cost-efficient means of constructing or renovating space for the clinics, which will determine whether the state will build/renovate and lease the space to the hospitals for the clinics,” DiResto said in an email.
Wright said CHRISTUS plans to offer multiple clinic locations in Pineville and Alexandria, giving the uninsured greater access to outpatient care than what has been available at Huey P. Long hospital.