LSU seeking agreements with private health firms

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run by LSU outdated.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.