- Associated Press - Thursday, September 22, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Gov. John Bel Edwards has moved to oust the operator of LSU’s hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe, after it refused renegotiated contract terms sought by the governor.

The Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana said Thursday that the terms offered by the Edwards administration are unfair.

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, the governor’s chief negotiator, sent a letter to the foundation this week, notifying it that the state will seek to end the contract.

The governor’s office released the letter Thursday.

“I am disappointed that we have not been able to reach an agreement with BRF about the operation of the public-private partnership hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe,” Edwards said in a statement with the letter.

The governor said he remains committed “to making sure that the people of north Louisiana have access to quality hospital and clinic care.”

BRF runs the two hospitals as University Health. Steve Skrivanos, chairman of the University Health board of directors, issued a statement saying the Edwards administration is offering “significantly worse terms” in the new operating agreements.

“We cannot sign an agreement that unfairly targets the Shreveport and Monroe hospitals while putting the health care of north Louisiana citizens at risk,” Skrivanos said.

Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo said the two sides have 45 days to continue conversations under the contract once the state seeks the hospital manager’s removal, suggesting a deal still could be struck.

While the research foundation has refused to sign the new paperwork, the relationship between BRF and LSU leadership also has continued to deteriorate, with university officials saying the foundation’s hospital management threatens medical education programs in north Louisiana.

BRF is operating the Monroe and Shreveport hospitals under a 2013 contract struck by former Gov. Bobby Jindal that has been criticized as unfavorable and costly to the state.

The Edwards administration is seeking to add fixed dollar amounts that each hospital can receive, new data collection requirements on patient care, certain payment rates for the services of LSU’s physicians and other adjustments.

Jindal privatized nine LSU-run hospitals and clinics that cared for Louisiana’s poor and uninsured through no-bid contracts, with the earliest deal starting in April 2013. The state is spending more than $1.1 billion on the contracts this year.

Besides BRF, all the other hospital and clinic operators have signed renegotiated agreements with the Edwards administration.

“When I set out to renegotiate these contracts, I did so in an effort to provide quality health care to our citizens while ensuring that the agreements were in the best interests of the taxpayers,” Edwards said. “I am confident that we have struck that agreement with all of our other partners.”

Skrivanos said the proposed agreement for BRF is out of line with the terms offered to the others.

His statement says the administration wants BRF to increase its payments to LSU by $37 million; to give millions in electronic health records software and licensing to the university without compensation; to accept payments for indigent care in monthly installments rather than in an upfront lump sum; and to agree to new grounds for termination of the contract.

“The Shreveport and Monroe hospitals would have a signed agreement as well if we had been offered the same type of terms as New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette instead of significantly different ones,” Skrivanos said.

The privatization deal in north Louisiana has been the most contentious partnership.

LSU leaders say BRF isn’t paying bills or providing enough support to the university’s Shreveport medical school. Foundation leaders say the accusations are untrue, the medical school’s problems are of its own making and BRF’s management has improved health care.


Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

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