Prisoner care is included in contracts being negotiated with private hospitals taking over operation of LSU hospitals, LSU System Executive Vice President Frank Opelka said Tuesday.

Under a new plan to handle the medical needs of inmates, Lallie Kemp Regional Medical Center in Independence will remain under LSU administration and serve as a backstop for prisoner care while filling needs for oncology and women’s health services, Opelka said.

Lallie Kemp will “be our safety valve in the safety net,” Opelka said. “We are going to keep it as it is as we go through these changes. We have our own safety net for now in Lallie Kemp.” He said the hospital could actually increase its bed capacity.

The new plan nixes the idea of LSU using its outpatient hospital off Perkins Road in south Baton Rouge for prisoner care once the LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center closes in April.

Opelka spoke during the 16th annual Health Care Effectiveness Forum, updating attendees on the public-private partnerships, which he said should expand services for poor and uninsured care while providing greater medical education opportunities.

“We are trying to select the local people to enrich what we are doing” in providing safety-net care in Louisiana, Opelka said, noting that all are not-for-profits with the same commitment to patient care as LSU.

A cooperative endeavor agreement has been in place for some time with regard to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge becoming home to patient care and medical education provided at the Earl K. Long facilities. Other agreements are being negotiated for private sector operation of LSU hospitals in Lafayette, New Orleans, Houma and Lake Charles.

“It’s around-the-clock negotiations on very complex agreements,” Opelka said.

Opelka said discussions are under way with a potential partner for the Bogalusa Regional Medical Center.

The LSU Board of Supervisors will consider amendments to the Lake deal as well as memorandums of understanding with other hospitals to delay initial lease payments the private hospitals had been scheduled to pay.

Opelka said LSU did not have to have the money as quickly as originally thought because employee ranks have shrunk reducing expenses.

The prisoner-care issue has been a thorny one, particularly in Baton Rouge where the services were not a part of the Lake deal signed by the state, LSU and the Lake.

After his speech, Opelka said LSU is now working on a different approach with the state Department of Corrections in which more medical care can be delivered on prison grounds and what else can be done with the use of telemedicine.

Opelka said prisoners will be assessed as to the level of care needed and where they can get the best care.

“If there is a high acuity care, they will go to New Orleans,” Opelka said.

If it’s not available in New Orleans, the Lake has agreed to treat the prisoner, he said.

Lallie Kemp will serve as a stopgap in other prisoner care situations, Opelka said.

Opelka said financial arrangements have yet to be worked out.