Attorney Bill Bourgeois, left, Hospital Service District No. 2 Chairman William Cefalu and Ochsner System Vice President Kristy Nichols appear Wednesday at a public hearing on the proposed agreement under which Ochsner would run Teche Regional Medical Center.
The Daily Review/Bill Decker
Officials expect OK on Teche Regional management lease Oct. 1
Ochsner Health System and local officials are expecting Attorney General Jeff Landry to sign off by Oct. 1 on a lease agreement under which Ochsner would operate Morgan City’s Teche Regional Medical Center.
Ochsner representatives outlined their plans for the 165-bed hospital Wednesday at a public hearing run by the Attorney General’s Office at the Emergency Operations Center in Morgan City.
Ochsner would replace LifePoint, which currently manages Teche Regional under a lease with Hospital Service District No. 2 and which has all but left its Louisiana operations. After district board meetings at which hospital staff members offered sometimes testy comments, Wednesday’s hearing drew only two remarks.
They were from former Mayor Tim Matte and Parish President David Hanagriff, both of whom expressed support.
“We’re committed …,” Hanagriff said. “We cannot fail. We have to succeed.”
“This outcome is what we’ve hoped for,” said district Chairman William Cefalu, a physician, after the meeting. “We’re seeing the best operator the state of Louisiana has to offer.”
The proposed lease is for 10 years followed by a series of automatic five-year renewals. Ochsner will pay about $151,000 a year in rent to the district and agree to maintain 24-hour emergency services, lab service, imaging, and primary care and physician clinic services.
Another list of services includes endoscopy and other ambulatory or outpatient surgical services; general, gynecological ophthalmic and orthopedic surgery; inpatient behavioral health treatment; obstetrical and newborn care; pediatric services; and physical, occupational and speech therapy. The district would be able to require Ochsner to offer those services if they lose money, but the district would have to subsidize the services it wants.
Ochsner would also agree to install an electronic medical records system costing $6 million.
The company’s officials said it would emphasize training of medical professionals, recruitment and holding on to local patients who would otherwise go out of the area for hospital services. Plans would also include telemedicine and digital medicine programs.
In a public letter released Tuesday, Cefalu said LifePoint lost millions running Teche Regional in the last four years. And, because LifePoint’s rent was based on its financial success, the hospital district hasn’t received rent in four years.
“The downturn in the economy didn’t help,” Cefalu said.
But the hospital is also a free-standing institution that lacks the integration available in a network, Cefalu said. That would change with Ochsner.
“There’s not a service a human being could need that they couldn’t get through Ochsner,” Cefalu said.
The Ochsner representatives at Tuesday’s hearing were System Vice President Kristy Nichols, Regional Medical Director Dawn Puente and Bayou Region CEO Tim Allen. They pointed to Ochsner successes on the medical and financial fronts.
After Ochsner began to manage the St. Bernard Parish Hospital after Katrina, the hospital posted a positive cash flow for the first time, they said. At the Ochsner Medical Complex river Parishes, Ochsner created a 13-bed, 24/7 emergency room and offered lab services.
Ochsner assumed management of the former Chabert charity hospital, where long waiting times discouraged visits to its clinics. The number of people walking out after long waits dropped from 17% to 2%. The sepsis mortality rate dropped by three-quarters.
Nichols said LifePoint employees working at Teche Regional will be transitioned to Ochsner in a process that will be final in May.