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Hospital board's ex-attorney wants details on Ochsner deal

St. Mary Hospital Service District 2’s former attorney says he wants to make sure the agreement under which Ochsner Health System will operate Morgan City’s hospital was properly reached.

A public records request from the attorney, Nicholas LaRocca, appears on the agenda for a meeting of the district board. The board, whose next scheduled meet-ing would be Nov. 6, will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Morgan City Court, 7261 La. 182 East in Morgan City.

LaRocca, the board’s long-time attorney before he resigned in November, said in a phone interview that he wants to see if the lease agreement was subject to an independent financial examination as he believes state law requires before the state attorney general approves the deal.

It was all part of the process by which Ochsner Health System became the 165-bed hospital’s operator and Teche Regional became Ochsner St. Mary.

LifePoint Health had operated the hospital under a lease agreement with the district. LifePoint reportedly lost millions on the deal during the 2014-18 period and announced plans last year to leave Louisiana.

Amid concerns that the Teche Regional would be forced to close, the search for a replacement operator quickly settled on Ochsner, one of Louisiana’s biggest employers and a respected name in medicine.

In March, Gov. John Bel Edwards came to Morgan City to announce that the district and Ochsner had reached agreement in principle.

The deal was submitted to Attorney General Jeff Landry for approval, and Landry OK’d the agreement late last month.

On Oct. 1, officials cut a symbolic ribbon at the hospital while a crane was stretching upward to replace Teche Regional signs with an Ochsner St. Mary banner.

But LaRocca said he believes the district-Ochsner agreement requires approval by a vote of the public.

Also, LaRocca believes the agreement under which LifePoint was let out of a 40-year lease should be made public as well.

“I think the public is entitled to see the separation agreement with LifePoint,” LaRocca said.

He resigned as the Hospital Service District’s attorney in November. He cited differences with the board over negotiations designed to find a company to replace LifePoint.

“I have expressed to the board that we have a fundamental disagreement on the way this matter has been handled and is being handled,” LaRocca said in an interview after he resigned, “and I cannot continue to represent them under these circumstances.”

LaRocca had expressed dissatisfaction with the pace of the negotiations, but wouldn’t say if what made him want to resign.

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