Our Views: Deal still leaves questions

In authorizing West Jefferson Medical Center to negotiate with LCMC Health over a lease agreement that would put Children’s Hospital in charge of the medical center’s operations, the Jefferson Parish Council has addressed some questions about the future of health care in the parish but left other big issues unresolved.

That continuing uncertainty underscores the problems that can develop when elected leaders put political expedience ahead of the public trust.

Months ago, parish officials embarked on a process to select a private operator for two of the parish’s hospitals, West Jefferson Medical Center and East Jefferson General Hospital. The idea was to hire one operator for both hospitals, creating some useful collaborations and economies of scale.

But the initial stages of the selection process, which involved members of the two hospital boards, were secretive. That lack of transparency was a key factor, in our view, in diminishing taxpayer confidence and trust, and it didn’t yield the desired result.

Earlier this month, when members of the hospital boards couldn’t agree on a single manager for the hospitals, the Parish Council allowed the hospitals to strike separate deals. Since the process began, two serious contenders for the management contract have dropped out of the running, apparently exhausted by the endless political wrangling.

Although LCMC is now in line to run the West Jefferson Medical Center, East Jefferson now has no formal bids to run its hospital. A process that was supposed to unite the parish in a common goal has ended with two sides of the parish going their own way. We’ve seen no evidence that splitting this management deal has yielded a better deal for taxpayers — or the patients who will rely on these health care institutions for quality care.

What we have seen, regrettably, is a bargain over the management of multimillion-dollar properties being driven by political exhaustion, not pragmatism.