With the boards of Jefferson Parish’s two public hospitals at an impasse over which private company will take over management, Parish President John Young is opening the door to a more transparent process.
If those boards remain unable to settle on a single company, parish officials might have a more open discussion about the proposals on the table before they vote, a marked departure from a process that has so far been conducted largely behind closed doors.
Up until now, the decision-making process has been a secretive. No details of the three proposals considered by the boards have been presented publicly. That’s allowed under a state law that gives wide latitude to hospital boards to keep strategic planning secret for competitive reasons and backed up by confidentiality agreements designed to protect the private partners.
That could change, Parish President John Young said this week.
“I think the process, including some of the specifics of the proposals, should be as open and transparent as possible,” Young said. Transparency in the process is particularly important since parish officials successfully lobbied to remove a restriction in state law that would have put the privatization up to a vote of the people and then did away with a similar parish ordinance, he said.
Jefferson Parish Council members are preparing for a meeting on East Jefferson General Hospital and West Jefferson Medical Center on Thursday, though its not yet clear how much discussion will be had in open session or what action will be taken.
Louisiana Children’s Medical Center, Ochsner Health System and HCA are all vying to take control of the hospitals. The council has the final say in that decision.
A day-long, closed-door meeting earlier this month led to a split decision by the hospitals boards, which had been expected to emerge with a recommendation to the council. Sources have said that the East Jefferson board almost unanimously favored HCA, while all the members of the West Jefferson board voted for Children’s. Ochsner did not receive any votes in that process.
The lack of a clear winner led the council to cancel a discussion on the hospitals last week and created the possibility of a longer process.
Council Chairman Chris Roberts did not respond to requests for an interview on the hospitals this week. But, in an email with Young, suggested an alternative that could bring the administration in on the process.
“In the event the hospital boards do not come with a majority recommendation for the council to consider, my position will be to allow the Parish Administration to review all options and to make them known to the council for consideration,” Roberts said.
Talk about changes that could bring more participants into the process has been circulating throughout the week. On Friday, Jefferson Parish residents reported getting automated calls on Friday warning them officials were holding secret meetings that would have dire consequences for healthcare over the next 30 years. The recording would then offer to connect the caller to a council member to complain.
It’s not clear who is behind the campaign. At least some of the calls came from a Google Voice number registered to the 985 area code, though that does not necessarily mean they originated in that area.
Officials with Children’s and Ochsner did not reply to questions about the calls Friday.
Asked about the calls Friday, HCA spokesman Rob Dyer said, “We are not responsible nor have any knowledge about it.”