Jindal administration to pay up to $15 million to build facilities

The Jindal administration plans to pay up to $15 million to build facilities for private hospitals that will take over care delivered by LSU’s Huey P. Long Medical Center in Pineville.

The commitment is associated with a deal in which the state-run hospital would close and patients would be absorbed by Christus Health Central Louisiana and Rapides Healthcare System facilities in Alexandria.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said Friday the dollars would go toward construction of three out-patient, urgent care and medical specialty clinics as well as a psychiatric unit expansion at Christus facility.

“We are building and covering the costs up to $15 million,” said Nichols. Spending in excess of that amount would have to be covered by the private operators, she said.

“It is contemplated right now that Christus and Rapides will own and operate the facilities,” said Nichols.

She said that arrangement would stand unless the facilities stopped providing the safety-net care that is required.

The $15 million is currently in the state construction budget associated with now-abandoned plans to move Huey P. Long inpatient activities to a facility at England Air Park.

Nichols said the administration will have to go to the Interim Emergency Board as well as the State Bond Commission next month to redirect and authorize the spending.

The construction work was not part of the cooperative endeavor agreement presented Friday to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget involving the closure of Huey P. Long.

Nichols said the capital improvement component “is still in development.”

Plans call for out-patient clinics to be placed in both Pineville and Alexandria in strategic locations, Nichols said.

Christus is already building a geriatric psychiatric section and will add 16-beds for general psychiatric care which the state will help pay for, she said. Huey P. Long has 16 psychiatric beds which officials say stay full.

Closure of the 75-year-old, state-run hospital will require legislative approval during the 2014 session.

Under the private takeover, Christus and Rapides will be guaranteed $49 million annually in Medicaid and uninsured care reimbursement.

State Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield, praised the progress that has been made in coming up with a plan to stabilize and expand health care coverage in central Louisiana. He said services have been “regressing.”

“This particular situation was so critical it had to be addressed,” Long said. “This is critical to central Louisiana” and the delivery of health care to the most vulnerable population.

State Rep. Herbert Dixon, D-Alexandria, said the two private hospitals have a good history of providing health care in the area.

But Dixon said he is concerned about how the changes are going to be conveyed to the public, how many employees are going to lose jobs, funding of the public hospital during the transition and where out-patient clinics are going to be.

“We are going to have to be working out some things. If I see you doing something not in the best interest of the district you can be rest assured I’m going to be in your face,” said Dixon.

Two other hospitals in the LSU 10 hospital system have already closed as part of Jindal administration privatization efforts the first in Baton Rouge and then Lake Charles.

The administration has moved to privatize the management and operations of another six hospitals in New Orleans, Lafayette, Houma, Bogalusa, Shreveport and Monroe. One remains, for now, under state control Lallie Kemp Regional Medical Center in Independence.