LSU’s privately managed hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe were thriving under the operation of Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana when LSU took steps in September to remove the foundation as manager, the hospitals’ chief executive officer testified Wednesday in a Baton Rouge courtroom.
BRF had never run a patient care facility when it took control of the two hospitals through a no-bid contract as part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s push to privatize most of the university-run public hospital system.
Richard Cascio, the CEO of University Health Shreveport and University Health Conway in Monroe, said the hospitals were mired in bureaucracy and patients waited extended periods of time to see equally frustrated LSU doctors when BRF took over management in October 2013.
“Night and day,” Cascio testified Wednesday when BRF attorney David Ettinger asked about the current situation with patients and physicians at the two hospitals. “Patient satisfaction is up. Access to care is much, much better. It’s just not the same hospitals we saw in October 2013.”
But John Murrill, an attorney for the LSU Board of Supervisors, argued to state District Judge Todd Hernandez that quality of patient care has nothing to do with the breach of public purpose notice LSU served on the foundation in September.
Ettinger charged that the notice of breach essentially put BRF on “double secret probation” — a line from the movie “Animal House” — because the notice was short on specifics.
LSU System President F. King Alexander had alleged in a July 10 letter that BRF breached its contract with LSU by “actions and activities that are contrary, and in fact antagonistic, to the best interests of LSU and the state.”
Alexander accused BRF of not creating a sustainable financial model for the hospitals, damaging the LSU Shreveport medical school’s reputation, and threatening the stability of the medical school and the hospitals.
LSU has accused BRF of failing to collaborate and cooperate with LSU, but Ettinger threw those accusations back at LSU.
“LSU lacked good faith in this process … because they wanted to get a withdrawal” from BRF as the hospitals’ manager, he told Hernandez.
BRF refused to withdraw, prompting LSU to file suit against the foundation Sept. 25 in Baton Rouge state court.
In the lawsuit, LSU claims BRF has failed to support and promote the academic mission of LSU Health Sciences Center-Shreveport.
“LSU has had numerous problems with the BRF entities,” Murrill told the judge. “We are not talking about past history. We’re talking about current events. We’ve danced this dance with them before.”
Ettinger argued the suit is woefully short on specific facts and asked Hernandez to dismiss it and not give LSU an opportunity to refile it. Murrill objected to that request.
The judge took the arguments under advisement, with the hearing scheduled to resume Thursday.
Ettinger argued that LSU is trying to “railroad” BRF out of its management contract and replace the foundation with Willis-Knighton Health System.
BRF filed a federal antitrust suit against Willis-Knighton in July, accusing the system of trying to undermine the entire LSU hospital privatization deal.