Covering Louisiana

Jan 29, 2013 4:25 PM by AP

No privatization planned for LSU's Lallie Kemp

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - LSU's facility in Tangipahoa Parish will stay under university control for now, even as most of LSU's south Louisiana hospitals are set for privatization, the head of the public hospital system said Tuesday.

Frank Opelka, LSU vice president for health affairs and medical education, said he hasn't been able to find a "community partner" that would be a good fit to run Lallie Kemp Regional Medical Center in Independence.

"I've not had anybody yet to the table that met the Lallie Kemp culture and care. Until we have that, we're keeping Lallie Kemp," he said, at an annual LSU Health forum in Baton Rouge.

Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration is pushing privatization, seeking to move away from a university-run hospital system that provides safety net care to the poor and the bulk of graduate medical education in Louisiana.

Jindal administration leaders and the governor's appointees on the LSU Board of Supervisors say the charity hospital model is outdated and costly.

The lease agreements with the not-for-profit health care companies also will help close budget gaps at the university hospitals. Jindal stripped more than $300 million in state and federal funding for the LSU health system after Louisiana's Medicaid financing was reduced by Congress.

LSU has preliminary agreements for private hospital operators to take over the management of four university-run facilities in Lake Charles, Lafayette, Houma and New Orleans. Also, Baton Rouge hospital operations are shifting to a private facility this year and the public hospital will be closed.

Talks also are underway for a possible lease arrangement for LSU's hospital in Bogalusa, with hopes to get an arrangement in place soon, Opelka said. Similar discussions are ongoing for three LSU hospitals in north Louisiana, run separately from the Health Care Services Division facilities in the south.

But Opelka said Lallie Kemp will remain university-run and will continue its focus on oncology services and women's health care for low-income patients and prisoner care, providing areas of health coverage that nearby facilities don't typically offer.

Meanwhile, he said all of the new privatization agreements - in Houma, Lafayette, Lake Charles and New Orleans - will require health care services for prisoners to be continued at the hospitals. That's unlike the Baton Rouge arrangement, which was negotiated several years ago before the steep budget cuts and which didn't include prisoner care.

Thousands of workers at the LSU health facilities will face layoffs under the privatization plans and will have to reapply for their jobs with the private hospital operators.

Opelka said he and the Jindal administration are hoping to get the final lease agreements for privatization of the hospitals worked out by March or April.

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