IND Monthly reported Thursday that the head of the state agency that oversees seven charity hospitals in South Louisiana told a joint legislative committee Thursday afternoon that the state is “very close” to finalizing a deal with a private medical center in Lafayette to take over the critical health care services being eliminated at University Medical Center.
IND Monthly has since learned that LSU Health Care Services Division head Dr. Frank Opelka is now disclosing that Lafayette General Medical Center is the hospital involved in the talks. It remains unclear, however, what role it could play in absorbing the draconian budget cuts coming to UMC. Opelka told lawmakers who sit on the joint Health and Welfare committee that the deal could serve as a model for public-private health care services statewide.
The potential public-private merger in Lafayette was revealed Thursday during a presentation to lawmakers in Baton Rouge on the state’s plan to slash more than $150 million from the collective budgets of seven public hospitals in South Louisiana. The proposal, approved Thursday morning by the LSU Board of Supervisors, will lay off 173 workers at UMC, strip $22.4 million from UMC’s operating budget, eliminate the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit and decrease the number of inpatient beds to 10.
Reached late Thursday afternoon, LGMC spokesman Daryl Cetnar would not confirm the LGMC's involvement, saying only that the hospital “cannot comment on speculation.”
The severe budget shortfall the public hospital system is facing erupted over the summer when the federal government reduced its Medicaid matching funds by $860 million. According to a Thursday report from Nola.com, almost 1,500 public hospital workers in South Louisiana will lose their jobs under the plan Opelka outlined Thursday:
Exactly what the reductions will look like for patients in the coming months was not clear from Opelka’s presentation to the board.
Opelka emphasized that the system was looking for private health care providers to “partner” with to provide care to the largely uninsured population that the LSU hospitals treat. These partnerships will help fill the care gaps, he said.
But Opelka mostly did not specify what those partnerships will look like.
When asked by reporters whether uninsured patients can be assured they will have access to non-emergency treatment when LSU’s cutbacks take effect, Opelka said they are “trying to achieve the highest level of confidence we can” that continued access will be available.
Check back with IND Monthly for updates on the potential public-private partnership involving LGMC and UMC.
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