In his first public appearance since being ousted, the former LSU hospitals chief said Thursday he is concerned about the future of LSU medical schools if some of the proposals being discussed come to fruition.
“There’s a simplistic view that you can just move medical education out and spread it out across the state,” said Fred Cerise, the former vice president for health services and medical education at LSU, at the League of Women Voters of Baton Rouge panel discussion on privatization of government services.
Cerise’s duties were reassigned in August during a time when the state’s public hospital system faced a possible cut of more than $300 million in the money LSU receives to treat the poor and uninsured.
The average academic medical education center has 600 beds, Cerise said. That scale allows schools to train various disciplines and specialties, he said.
Prior to the latest round of cuts, New Orleans facilities had about 200 beds to support two medical schools, Cerise said.
“It is woefully inadequate in terms of size for a major medical academic center,” Cerise said. “Obviously, if you shrink that, it has an impact on the training program.”
Future plans call for even fewer beds at the medical education facilities and the possibility of moving the training of some “residents” to various hospitals across the state, he said. Residents are doctors who recently graduated medical school, received their medical degrees, and to become fully licensed, need to train for three-to-seven years under the supervision of a seasoned physician.
“If you move 10 residents to this hospital, 20 residents to that hospital, you’re not going to have those same considerations at each hospital. You won’t have the same infrastructure support as you’re going to have a larger facility,” Cerise said.
A wide variety of specialists and technology often isn’t available in some facilities as would be in a larger medical education facility, he said.
“You need those things to be attractive to students and residents and to have a good quality program,” he said. “That is a fundamental difference.”
Cerise’s roughly $330,000 annual contract with LSU continues until September 2015, he said.
“I’m on leave right now,” he said after the panel discussion.
The contract requires LSU to offer him another job on which they can agree, he said.
“The agreement I have ... is that I’d take some time off and figure out if there is something I want to do with the school,” Cerise said. “I could go back to teaching. I don’t know if I’d go back to seeing patients. It has been a while.”
Cerise said he is considering opportunities outside LSU in both Louisiana and in other states.
About 50 people attended the luncheon.
Jean Armstrong, president of the League of Women Voters of Baton Rouge, ordered reporters and photographers not to identify anyone in the audience. She said state employees were part of the luncheon crowd and their attendance could lead to their firing.
The discussion was about efforts to privatize some state government services.
In addition to Cerise, panelists included Tom Aswell, a former official with the state Office of Risk Management, and Albert Samuels, who teaches political science at Southern University. They mostly discussed contracting a private insurance company to handle health coverage for state employees, retirees and their families.
Scott M. Richard, executive director for Louisiana School Boards Association, focused on new programs for vouchers and charter schools that he said are transferring taxpayer dollars for public education to private companies.
Armstrong said she also invited legislators, bloggers and members of the Jindal administration who generally back privatizing government services. They did not attend.