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Manager of LSU Shreveport and Monroe hospitals says invoices have been paid in ongoing dispute

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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — The head of the management company running LSU's hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe said Thursday that the company has paid outstanding debts to the university system and was working out the final details of its contract.

Rodney Huebbers, CEO of the University Health System, which oversees the two LSU-owned hospitals in north Louisiana, sought to defuse an ongoing financial disagreement between the hospital operator and the university system.

LSU claimed it was owed more than $25 million for services rendered from the University Health System and its parent research foundation, the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, or BRF.

Huebbers told the LSU Board of Supervisors that all outstanding invoices have been paid. He apologized for the length of time it took to address the debts and he said he expects a long and prosperous partnership with the university system.

He said nearly all outstanding financial agreements that needed to be worked out have been signed.

"As your partner, I know it's been a long road for the last year or what have you, but we do look forward to a cooperative relationship. Negotiations are never easy," he said.

After Huebbers made his statement to the board publicly, board members went behind closed doors for two hours to talk about the financial dispute.

An agenda for Thursday's meeting said the discussion could be done behind closed doors because "the matters at issue may result in litigation." The board took no action when it returned from executive session.

Questioned about Huebbers' comments, LSU health care adviser Jerry Phillips said the university system's lawyers haven't had time to review the signed documents offered by University Health, which would govern the financial arrangements for computer services, utilities and security, among other things.

Phillips said it was too soon to determine if a final resolution had been reached.

"It doesn't mean that the full demand has been met," he said. "There's money flowing, but there's additional concerns."

BRF took control of the two LSU-owned hospitals in October 2013, as part of Gov. Bobby Jindal's push to privatize most of the university-run public hospital system. The foundation had never previously run a patient facility.

Heubbers' comments to the board Thursday were a striking contrast from the angry letters that previously had been exchanged.

Last month, an LSU lawyer sent a collection letter to BRF, saying its refusal to pay back-owed debts has created problems for the Shreveport medical school. In the blistering letter, LSU accused the research foundation of using it like a "personal piggy bank."

In response, BRF leaders disputed the amount owed and blamed LSU for making the privatization management transition more difficult than necessary.

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