BATON ROUGE, La. — The manager of two safety-net hospitals in north Louisiana dismissed claims that it’s not following the terms of its state contract, saying some of the accusations “suggest a complete lack of understanding” of hospital operations.

BRF, the company managing the Shreveport and Monroe hospitals as University Health System, replied to the complaints in an eight-page letter to LSU, which previously ran the state-owned facilities and which has accused the hospital operator of breach of contract.

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration also says BRF is violating terms of its deal with the state and LSU.

But in its letter, obtained by The Associated Press, BRF and University Health leaders say their hospitals suffer from inadequate state funding, financing discrimination against north Louisiana facilities and “unreasonable” demands from LSU.

“We strongly disagree that UH or BRF has failed to work collaboratively and in alignment with the state and LSU to develop and maintain a sustainable business model with adequate funding levels,” says the letter, signed by Stephen Skrivanos, chairman of the University Health System, and two other top BRF and University Health leaders.

LSU’s doctors and medical students work and train at the safety-net hospitals.

In his breach-of-contract letter sent in September, 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 in Shreveport; and doesn’t meet acceptable patient care quality and safety standards.

Throughout the letter, Skrivanos and the other BRF and University Health leaders criticize the claims from LSU, saying that the university system’s breach notification was written so poorly as to make it difficult to even address the concerns raised.

Complaints about quality and suggestions for improvement, the letter says, “are so vague as to be indecipherable.” Allegations that BRF is operating the hospitals to further its own interests “simply repeat slanderous, empty statements made by enemies of University Health,” the letter says.

With the breach-of-contract notification, 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.

Though they dispute the breach-of-contract claims, company leaders offered ideas they said could help speed bill payments to LSU, boost federal reimbursement rates and cut costs. In those suggestions, they criticized LSU doctors as improperly coding procedures and providing too little documentation with invoices.

The hospital operators said they are committed to health care and medical education in north Louisiana and want to resolve the disputes.

“We are very excited about the opportunities that exist for University Health and LSU to work together,” they wrote.

LSU responded with its own letter, released Thursday, that said BRF didn’t offer enough “sufficiently specific or comprehensive” suggestions in its response to “cure” the problems at issue. Negotiations are expected to continue.

BRF is operating the Monroe and Shreveport hospitals under a 2013 no-bid contract struck by former Gov. Bobby Jindal. The Edwards administration said it is talking to Ochsner Health System to possibly help BRF run the hospitals or replace the company. In its letter, BRF said it, too, is talking with Ochsner about joining “as a partner in a manner which will allow us to make further improvements in our funding operations.”


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