BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU is shopping around for new health care deals in north Louisiana, hoping to move some of its doctors-in-training to more hospitals in the region because the university’s relationship with the operator of its own hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe continues to deteriorate.
University System President F. King Alexander calls LSU’s arrangement to have the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana run the two north Louisiana hospitals “a three-and-a-half year thorn in our side. It’s never been a functional partnership.”
Alexander said Thursday that the research foundation, which runs the two hospitals as the University Health System, doesn’t have the resources or experience to run medical teaching facilities that care for the poor and uninsured. He said hospital leaders aren’t paying bills on time — or at all, in some instances. Poor management, Alexander said, is threatening the financial health of LSU’s medical school in Shreveport, which is burning through its reserves.
“We can no longer put rose-colored glasses on this and pretend this is fine and dandy,” he said. “We are not going to let the medical school go under.”
University Health says Alexander’s accusations are untrue and LSU’s Shreveport medical school isn’t operating under a “workable financial model.” Steve Skrivanos, chairman of the University Health System board, said the research foundation’s hospital management has improved health care.
“We still believe it’s important to north Louisiana that we work through this,” he said.
Alexander said the hospitals aren’t fully paying LSU’s doctors for services they provide to patients, owing the medical school $13 million. In addition, the LSU leader said University Health isn’t providing the $30 million to $40 million a year in financial support the Shreveport hospital used to give LSU’s medical school when the university system ran the facility.
The university system is negotiating with other hospitals to spread medical school residents beyond the University Health hospitals, saying that’s similar to what LSU’s medical school in New Orleans does. Alexander said he hoped to have “two or three additional partnerships” to announce next week.
“We need partners with money that can pay their bills,” Alexander said.
Skrivanos said University Health has paid what is owed and given more to the medical school than the original terms of the contract. He said LSU overcharges the hospitals and the state is responsible for bailing out the medical school if it has financial gaps.
“Under the terms of the partnership, the cost of education was always going to remain with the state,” Skrivanos said. “Whatever they’re short, it’s up to the state to fund that, not the safety net hospital.”
The dispute again spilled into public view when University Health’s hospital in Shreveport received a poor, one-star ranking on a four-star federal scale, far below its competitors in the city. Then, the Board of Regents last week placed LSU’s medical school in Shreveport on a “fiscal watch.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration has been trying to renegotiate the terms of the privatization deal in north Louisiana, along with the other hospital contracts put in place by former Gov. Bobby Jindal. The Edwards administration says the deals were too hastily slapped together, with terms that aren’t favorable to the state.
But while LSU appears to be on good terms with the managers of its other hospitals, the “partnership” with the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana has been tense since the privatization deal began in October 2013. LSU sued the research foundation last year seeking to end the contract, but a judge threw out the lawsuit as premature.
Sen. Greg Tarver, D-Shreveport, was an initial supporter of the privatization arrangement between LSU and the research foundation. He’s since changed his mind. He said he doesn’t think the two sides can work things out.
“I think it’s too much water under the bridge with these people,” Tarver said. “The doctors are angry. Everybody up there can’t work together.”
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