The LSU Board of Supervisors approved the closure of Huey P. Long Medical Center in Pineville on Friday as the Jindal administration neared completion of its plan to get the state out of the business of operating hospitals.
The closure of the nearly 75-year-old facility requires legislative approval, which will be sought in the 2014 legislative session.
Under a cooperative endeavor agreement, ratified by the LSU Board, two private hospitals in Alexandria will assume patient care for the poor and uninsured in central Louisiana within their facilities. Involved are the companies that run Christus’ St. Francis Cabrini and Rapides General Medical Center.
Huey P. Long makes the ninth out of LSU’s 10 hospitals to be impacted by the privatization push. With completion of the deal, only Lallie Kemp Medical Center in Independence would remain under LSU operation.
Two other LSU hospitals have closed: Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge and W.O. Moss Medical Center in Lake Charles. The management of six other hospitals has been turned over to private entities, including those in New Orleans and Lafayette.
The Jindal administration push for privatization came as budget cuts threatened the hospitals ability to provide health care to the needy and provide educational training for the state’s physicians.
Gov. Bobby Jindal has said the changes will be more financially sustainable in the long term while it provides expanded services and strengthens medical education program.
Hugh Mighty, vice chancellor of clinical affairs at LSU Health Sciences Center-Shreveport, said officials have “wrestled with how to proceed,” weighing construction of a new $200 million hospital or moving services to the England Air Park, where facility renovations would cost between $25 million and $30 million.
With the changing health care environment, Mighty said the deal with the private hospitals made more financial sense while improving patient access to health care services. The 60-bed hospital has an occupancy rate of 50 to 55 percent. Its emergency room has acted more as an after-hours acute care facility, he said.
Under the deal, the two private hospitals are guaranteed $49 million a year in reimbursement for patient care after the Huey P. Long facility closes.
The transition is expected to occur by June 30, 2014, and after demographically placed outpatient clinics are established to help bring health care closer to residents, he said. Christus Health will also provide acute care services for psychiatric patients with state financial support.
Stephen Wright, president and CEO of Christus Health Central Louisiana, said it is unique to have both of the large medical institutions in the community coming together to find the appropriate solution to continued “safety net” care of those in need.
Wright said the partnership should result in the restoration of services that have not been available for more than 18 months as Huey P. Long scaled back because of budget cuts.
“It is our intent to have multiple clinic locations in Pineville and Alexandria” to which there is access from interstate highways, Wright said.