University Health answers Gov. Edwards contract breach claims

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The operator of the state-owned, safety-net hospital in Shreveport disagrees with breach of contract letters from Gov. John Bel Edwards and LSU sent Monday.

The Edwards administration and LSU, sent notice of breach letters to the Biomedical Research Foundation (BRF) over University Health in Shreveport and Monroe. The company has a 45-day period to correct the problems outlined or it will be removed as operator.

A 13-page letter from LSU President F. King Alexander said “BRF has failed to work collaboratively and in alignment with LSU and the state to develop and maintain a sustainable business model with adequate funding levels.”

His specific complaints include that the hospital manager doesn’t work with LSU to ensure high-quality graduate medical education, doesn’t pay its bills on time, and doesn’t meet acceptable patient care quality and safety standards.

BRF and University Health released a statement today saying they strongly disagree with the letter’s assertions and that they expect to favorably resolve the issues and remain as operators.

“While we are very disappointed in the actions of LSU and the Division of Administration, we remain committed to try to work with them to resolve our differences for the benefit of the people of north Louisiana,” said Steve Skrivanos, Chair of University Health.

BRF and University Health are currently engaged in discussions with Ochsner Health regarding potential collaboration to move their efforts forward.

The statement said that the funding between BRF and LSU “grossly discriminates against north Louisiana.”

“North Louisiana hospitals get only 32 cents per patient for every dollar received by New Orleans. We will fight for a funding model that treats the citizens of north Louisiana fairly, and provides for adequate health care for those who need it most,” said Malcolm Murchison, Chair of BRF.

The statement says the DOA and LSU have demanded that the hospitals pay increased amounts to LSU, despite net reductions and funding from the state that have cost hospitals tens of millions of dollars annually.

“Given these enormous cuts, we are not going to prioritize paying LSU ahead of the needs of our patients. And we are not going to pay LSU for services that they cannot document or that are based on faulty invoices and cannot be supported as reflecting true fair market value,” said Skrivanos.

The company is operating the Monroe and Shreveport hospitals under a 2013 contract sought by former Gov. Bobby Jindal. The privatization deal has seen several disagreements over payment amounts and contract terms. LSU tried to remove the BRF previously in 2015 before a state district judge threw out the lawsuit. In 2016, Governor Edwards announced that the state would file a notice of breach against University Health, but the disputes were resolved.