Jun 5, 2014 8:59 PM by associated press
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to close the LSU-run public hospital in Pineville, part of a health care privatization deal, is being challenged in a Baton Rouge court. The petition was filed this week on behalf of two hospital closure opponents, Edwin Parker of East Feliciana Parish and Brad Ott of New Orleans.
They claim that lawmakers didn't follow Louisiana's open meetings law when the legislation authorizing the hospital's shuttering was considered by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. The petition asks District Court Judge Kay Bates to declare the legislation null and void and to keep the Jindal administration and LSU from shutting down Huey P. Long Medical Center.
Lawmakers agreed to the closure during the legislative session that ended Monday, with a 66-28 vote of the House and a 26-11 vote of the Senate. The lawsuit was filed a day after the session wrapped up.
"The Huey P. Long Hospital resolution was debated at length during the legislative session, and the decision to close the facility represents the will of the Legislature," Jindal said in a statement Thursday. In the court filing, attorney J. Arthur Smith III says the Senate committee didn't provide the required advanced notice to allow for public comment on the hospital legislation. He also says the meeting notification didn't properly advertise what the legislation would do because it didn't include a reference to the Huey P. Long Medical Center closure.
Senate Secretary Glenn Koepp told The Shreveport Times that he'll review the Senate's actions in handling the legislation, but he added, "As much as I can tell right now, everything was handled properly." The Jindal administration says the hospital closure will improve health care for the uninsured in central Louisiana by moving Huey P. Long's patients to nearby private hospitals, CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Hospital and Rapides Regional Medical Center.
The closure is expected before the budget year ends June 30. It is Jindal's ninth and final privatization deal for the state-owned hospitals that care for the poor and uninsured and that provide much of the training for Louisiana's medical students.
Critics of the hospital's shuttering say too many financing questions remain unanswered that could jeopardize care in later years.