LSU leaders and the manager of the university system’s Shreveport hospital are again at odds, and the threat of a possible breach of contract lawsuit emerged Thursday in the privatization deal.
A last-minute add-on to Friday’s LSU Board of Supervisors agenda shows a possible discussion about “prospective litigation” against the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana for violating its contract to run LSU’s Shreveport and Monroe hospitals.
The research foundation, which operates the two hospitals as University Health System, said it doesn’t know anything about the agenda item, releasing a statement saying its leaders “have not been notified by LSU or any other party of any alleged breach of contract, or that any discussion of our (contract) would occur.”
LSU officials didn’t immediately respond to questions about the matter.
University Health System officials said they already planned to be at Friday’s board meeting in a contract dispute, accusing a competitor in the region of trying to poach its doctors and paying patients.
The contracts, according to University Health, would have LSU doctors working at Willis-Knighton Health System clinics to provide specialty care.
David Ettinger, an antitrust lawyer hired by University Health, said if LSU doctors shift much of their specialty care to Willis-Knighton, that will drive insured patients away from the state-owned facility and will boost state costs for uninsured care.
“It will be very harmful to patients. It will be very harmful to the taxpayers of Louisiana,” Ettinger said.
Willis-Knighton didn’t immediately respond to a call for comment.
LSU officials and University Health’s managers have repeatedly clashed since Gov. Bobby Jindal privatized the hospital nearly two years ago.
The Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana took control of LSU’s Shreveport and Monroe hospitals in October 2013, as part of Jindal’s push to privatize most of the university-run public hospital system. The foundation had never run a patient care facility when it got the no-bid contract.
After the management transfer, tensions spilled into public view.
Financial documents took nearly a year to complete. LSU sent a collection letter demanding millions in payments during the dispute. The foundation accused LSU of mismanaging its clinics. University Health’s CEO abruptly resigned in March.
An outside consulting firm hired by LSU officials has said the privatization deal for the Shreveport hospital has created such management and financial tensions that it threatens the health of the university’s nearby medical school.
Lawmakers have raised concerns about the financial viability of the hospital’s business model and have described poor working relationships between LSU and University Health management.
Willis-Knighton reached out to Jindal and others about possibly assuming management of LSU’s Shreveport hospital earlier this year.
But Ettinger said even the contracts proposed between the LSU doctors and Willis-Knighton risks giving the health system so much of the patient care market in Shreveport that it could violate federal antitrust laws designed to promote competition.
He noted Willis-Knighton previously raised antitrust concerns itself two years ago, when it decided against entering a privatization deal with the Jindal administration to take over the LSU Shreveport hospital.