A Democratic state lawmaker from Carencro is accusing the head of the state agency that oversees seven charity hospitals in South Louisiana of being less than truthful about the status of a potential public-private partnership between Lafayette General Medical Center and UMC to help offset drastic cuts in services coming down to Lafayette’s charity hospital.

IND Monthly reported Thursday that LSU Health Care Services Division head Dr. Frank Opelka told a joint legislative committee Thursday afternoon that the state is “very close” to finalizing a deal with LGMC to take over the critical health care services being eliminated at University Medical Center. Due to budget cuts, the state 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 by year’s end.

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, but state Rep. Stephen Ortego says Opelka, while “under oath before the Legislature,” gave “misinformation” on the status of the deal.

Asked whether LSU Health Care Services is indeed slashing UMC’s ICU and decreasing inpatient beds without the probability of a deal with LGMC to take over, Ortego says “that’s exactly what I’m saying.”

“There’s nothing but a letter of intent to study it,” Ortego says. “Opelka gave us poor information. I was sitting there watching the video in my office, and I was shocked when he said it. We just have a summary of where the cuts are going to be. That’s all I’ve gotten out of them. It’s a way to cut the legislature out of the loop.”

A press release issued by LGMC this morning confirms Ortego’s comments, noting that the two hospitals “have entered into a Letter of Intent (LOI) and Confidentiality Agreement for the parties to explore the options of entering into a yet to be determined transaction and/or other appropriate collaboration relative to University Medical Center:”
This LOI is a non-binding agreement that allows both parties to share confidential information in an attempt to establish a relationship that is mutually beneficial for both sides.

UMC has traditionally served as the safety net hospital for uninsured and underinsured patients in its service area, as well as a training site for medical students, residents and other health care practitioners.

No timetable has been set for any type of decision, which will allow for all due diligence to be made by both LGMC and LSU.

"LGMC is working with consultants to help develop an operational analysis as well as to provide a structure for the graduate medical education program," LGMC President and CEO David Callecod says in a prepared statement. "We are currently in talks, performing our due diligence to see what discussions need to happen next. It is the first step in a long process."

Read more on the charity hospital system cuts from IND Monthly and Nola.com here and here.

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