The Jindal administration’s proposed state budget is $15 million shy of what’s required to fund its LSU hospital privatization deal in Baton Rouge, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center chief Scott Wester said Thursday.
Initially, the Lake projected it would need $7.4 million in additional funds above the standstill level in the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
But the projected shortfall has doubled in recent weeks, largely because of the closure of Baton Rouge General Mid City’s emergency room, Wester said during a meeting of The Advocate’s editorial board.
Wester said the Lake has had to invest more dollars into expanding hours at LSU Health’s urgent care clinic in the area to give access to patients who once showed up at the Mid City ER. “There’s much more need on the ambulatory side,” Wester said.
The hospital is also projecting more and more patients, he said.
Wester said the Lake’s emergency room use is up 10 percent since the General’s Mid City emergency room closed March 31.
Two years ago, the Lake, located off Essen Lane in south Baton Rouge, became home to LSU’s medical education programs and patient care. LSU closed the antiquated Earl K. Long Medical Center in north Baton Rouge.
The Lake deal was the first LSU hospital privatization cooperative endeavor agreement. Now all but one site of LSU’s one-time 10-hospital system is being managed by private partners.
In the current fiscal year, the budget appropriated $1.2 billion for the hospital deals.
All of the private partners have sought more funds than Jindal’s budget proposal provides. When the budget was unveiled, administration officials said it was $142 million short of what private operators said was required.
Most of the extra funding request — $87.6 million — came from Louisiana Children’s Medical Center, operators of the LSU Interim Hospital in New Orleans. Its activities will be greatly expanded and costs will rise with the opening of the $1 billion state-of-the-art University Medical Center later this year. Hospital operators have delayed its opening from this spring until Aug. 1.
Lafayette General Medical Center sought $11.6 million they did not receive for operating LSU’s University Medical Center in Lafayette.
On Thursday, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols issued a statement in response to a question about progress in resolving the funding issue.
“Ensuring the people of Louisiana have access to health care is one of our top priorities. We are continuing to work with legislative staff on funding solutions and will finalize those plans as we move through the legislative process,” Nichols said.
Nichols said earlier that the hospitals’ financial projections needed to be “validated.” She called the budget “a work in progress.”
Wester said he does not anticipate knowing anything until the last days of the legislative session, which must end June 11.
The projected need at other LSU hospitals are: Bogalusa, $4.8 million; Houma, $3.3 million; Lake Charles, $2.4 million; Shreveport, $17.4 million; Monroe, $5.2 million; and Alexandria, $1.9 million.