Last Modified: Friday, October 12, 2012 3:48 PM
BATON ROUGE (AP) — A week after $152 million in cuts were levied across the LSU public hospitals, Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein said Thursday that no new, formal arrangements have yet been reached with private hospitals to pick up the care.
But he and LSU hospitals chief Frank Opelka said in a joint interview that they're having solid discussions with private health care facilities to identify ways they might collaborate on services and medical training programs or possibly take over management of a university hospital.
"We're working community by community, market by market, hospital by hospital to identify partners," Greenstein said.
The health care leaders pointed to a letter of intent signed this week in Lafayette, between LSU and Lafayette General Medical Center, establishing that they are exploring options for collaboration.
More than $22 million in cuts to the LSU-run University Medical Center in Lafayette are shrinking the number of inpatient beds from 48 to 10 and eliminating intensive care unit services.
"It is our duty to ensure that our community has proper access to quality care, that the current UMC campus remains open and viable and that graduate medical education remain in Acadiana," Lafayette General Medical Center President and CEO David Callecod said in a statement.
Gov. Bobby Jindal levied most of a federal financing reduction on LSU's network of hospitals and clinics that care for the poor and uninsured. The governor wants to shift much of the care to private companies, calling the safety net health system run by LSU outdated.
The cuts announced last week are eliminating dozens of inpatient beds, clinic services and nearly 1,500 jobs across south Louisiana and could threaten access to health care for some uninsured people in the high-poverty state.
Greenstein said while LSU's budget has dropped from $1.4 billion to $1 billion, those dollars could be reorganized and better spent.
Lawmakers have said they are worried about gaps in critical services while LSU officials and the Jindal administration try to work out arrangements with private hospitals and about problems maintaining education programs that train doctors and other health professionals.
Opelka, LSU's executive vice president for health care and medical education redesign, said he expects to maintain four "strong flagships" for graduate medical education, based in Shreveport, Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans — in collaboration with community hospitals.
Greenstein said the three north and central Louisiana hospitals overseen by the LSU's Shreveport facility are putting together a formal request seeking proposals for lease arrangements with private health care firms.
He said former Jindal administration health secretary Alan Levine, who now works for a Florida-based health care firm that runs hospitals, has been to Shreveport to talk about possibilities.
All conversations about the seven public hospitals in south Louisiana run by LSU's Health Care Services Division involve local health care companies, Greenstein said.
Greenstein said he's looking at ways for private health care facilities to tap into available federal dollars, to help cover the costs for picking up care that had been done at the LSU-run public hospitals and clinics.
"We're not looking at spending net new money. We are, however, working with hospitals that are entering into agreements with LSU in ways that we can maximize the available funding," he said.