Memorial to take over Moss Regional, lease building

By By Natalie Stewart / American Press

Employees at W.O. Moss Regional Medical Center and the patients they serve can finally breath a sign of relief as the hospital

enters into a partnership with Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Frank Opelka, LSU System executive

vice president for health care, announced Friday at a news conference

that a public/private

partnership between Moss Regional and Lake Charles Memorial

Hospital, along with their partner West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital,

will modernize and sustain health care for Southwest Louisiana

that is provided through the charity hospital.

The partnership will preserve patient services that are currently in place at Moss Regional, Opelka said. Memorial Hospital

will lease property from Moss Regional and West Cal-Cam Hospital will sublease components of Moss Regional from Memorial.

Other aspects of the partnership will

include Memorial assuming responsibility for the facility and operations

at Moss Regional

and Moss Regional will continue to serve as a charity hospital in

Southwest Louisiana for patients who are uninsured as well

as those on Medicaid.

“The hospitals involved will develop a

memorandum of understanding which will be presented to the LSU Board of


for their approval,” Opelka said. “After these memorandums are

approved, LSU will begin working with Lake Charles Memorial

and West Cal-Cam toward cooperative endeavor agreements that will

spell out the terms of the new relationship and how it will

preserve and enhance patient care.”

State run hospitals in Houma, New Orleans, and Lafayette have also adopted public/private partnerships to curtail funding


Bruce Greenstein, Department of Health and Hospitals secretary, said the partnership will allow Moss Regional to avoid layoffs

and maintain current services.

“The LSU System has been on an

accelerated path to redesign health care services because of Congress’

sudden actions in July

to reduce federal medical assistance ... to the lowest level

Louisiana has had in more than 25 years,” he said. “(The) decrease

has caused us to speed up this transformation.”

Dr. Mohammed Sarwar, Moss Regional medical director, has been at the hospital for 15 years and said for the first time since

then he can “breath a sign of relief.”

“I am really thankful to everybody, this is the first time I’m able to breath a sign of relief,” he said. “Every year we go

through ‘Is Moss going to close,’ ... now we can have comfort that Moss is not closing anytime in the near future. We work

really hard, and Moss is our home. So, we are very happy.”

Congress’ reduced Louisiana’s Federal Medical Assistance Percentage eliminating $126.9 million in State General Funds from

the LSU System’s budget. There was a total reduction of $329.2 million when federal funds that would have been matched are

taken into consideration, Greenstein said.

Greenstein said it has long been known that the public hospital system is outdated and unsustainable.

“Given the changing landscape of health

care, the LSU System has to change its model to survive and thrive in

this health

care marketplace,” he added. “The (funding) decrease acted as a

catalyst for the LSU System to do what they have always known

was necessary — to identify ways to run programs more efficiently

and effectively, and to transform operations to create a

sustainable health care system.”

Greenstein said the partnership gives Moss Regional the ability to withstand and depend less on future appropriations and

changes in state financing.

Larry Graham, president of Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, said he and his staff are looking forward to the collaboration

with the LSU System and West Cal-Cam.

“We could not ask for better partners,”

he said. “Memorial has always been a team player when it comes to the

health care

needs of our community, and all of our decisions begin with the

question: What is the right thing to do for our community?”

“Memorial believes that preserving the

health care safety net for the working poor and uninsured served by Moss

Regional is

the right thing to do,” Graham added. “Lake Charles Memorial

Health Care System understands and welcomes this new model of

patient services, and we will do our best to work together with

our partners to ensure quality health care for our community.”

Bill Hankins, chief executive officer of West Cal-Cam Hospital, echoed Graham’s sentiments on looking forward the working


“West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital has a

long-standing relationship with Moss Regional,” he said. “Several

physicians from our

campus in Sulphur have been working at Moss Regional for a number

of years. We have had a great relationship and we are confident

that they are going to continue to provide (health care) is very

exciting for all of us.”

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, said with the partnership, Southwest Louisiana is taking health care “to the

next level.”

“Finally, we are moving out of the

outdated, antiquated charity system that was developed back in ... the

1930s and into the

21st century,” he said. “We are coming into a facility that has

the financial resources, that has the technology, that has

the expertise ... that has the staffing to do what we need to do,

and what we should have done many, many years ago here in

Southwest Louisiana to bring our health care and deliver health

care to the people that can least afford it ... and give them

the proper health care they need.”

Kleckley said “that’s what we have been missing here in this state.”

“We are taking our health care here in Southwest Louisiana and we are moving it to the next level,” he said. “I cannot say

how proud and how excited I am.”

Sen. Ronnie John, R-Lake Charles, said in his 13 years in the legislature it has been a concern rather Moss Regional was going

to remain open and rather the facility was going to have the funding to provide “the very basics.”

Johns commended Moss Regional Interim Administrator, Jimmy Pottorff, and his staff for being “loyal and tireless” in providing

quality health care.

“Change never comes easy,” Johns said.

“But, if we don’t change, we go backwards. The important message is Moss

Regional will

be open for business and it will hopefully in the future be able

to deliver more care than it has been able to do in the past.”

Opelka said employees at Moss Regional

will continue to work within the partnership and will be offered

opportunities to change

their job position from LSU to work under Lake Charles Memorial,

and employees in physician and clinical services will remain

LSU employees.

Graham said it’s Memorial’s intent to hire as many employees as necessary to accomplish the mission of running all services

currently at Moss Regional fully.

The transition is expected to begin in the coming months and be completed by July.