Chief medical officer to resign

Dr. Michael Kaiser will step down from his $350,000-a-year job as chief of the LSU Health Care Services Division effective Aug. 30.

Kaiser stepped into the job last fall as the Jindal administration worked toward privatization of six of the seven charity hospitals in south Louisiana under the umbrella of the LSU Health Care Services Division, called HCSD.

In that role, Kaiser presided over the layoff of thousands of state employees who worked at LSU hospitals in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lafayette, Houma and Lake Charles. Bogalusa hospital employee layoffs are next.

Kaiser, who is also HCSD’s chief medical officer, declined an interview request.

In an e-mail message to “Friends,” Kaiser said he was leaving for personal reasons although “some will try to make this resignation a statement about the privatization of the hospitals.”

Kaiser said he is relocating to California. “All my family lives in the Bay Area … from a 1-year-old to a 91 year old (my Mom) … and each passing day in Louisiana prevents me from joining them,” he wrote.

“It is true that it has been hard to watch the dismantling of programs that are working, that are important for our patients, and that could be national models,” Kaiser wrote. “Yet I have worked hard to maintain our visions and feel confident, when looking back at these decisions, some will be measured as extremely successful. I have watched too many budget cuts to ignore the opportunities of an expansion of services.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal has argued that it is no longer financially viable for the state to continue to operate the hospitals. He said turning over management and operation of LSU hospitals will allow expansion of services available to the state’s poor and uninsured while improving medical education opportunities.

Kaiser replaced Roxane Townsend in the HCSD job as part of a shake-up at the top of LSU’s medical operations as the private hospital takeover loomed.

Kaiser, a pediatrician, has worked for the HCSD since October 2001. He has been a Louisiana resident for 30 years. He has also worked in various capacities related to HIV/AIDS programs.

He is the former director of emergency care at Children’s Hospital.

In a mid-June LSU Health electronic newsletter, Kaiser wrote about the “historic transformation” that HCSD was about to undergo with the transfer of four hospitals to private operation June 24.

Kaiser said he had been “a strong proponent of ‘systemness.’ ”

“There are many advantages and efficiencies when we work together to improve quality and safety and lower costs,” Kaiser wrote. “I know it has been hard to plan for the separation of some critical components of our system ... and it will be hard to watch the disentanglement.”

“Yet HCSD remains committed to working with our partners to maintain some of the critical elements of our system.”

“Personally, I share in our collective sense of loss,” Kaiser wrote.