East Jefferson General Hospital’s operating loss widened to $17.5 million in 2013 as the east bank public hospital continued to struggle in an increasingly competitive environment.

That loss compares with a $15.5 million operating loss in 2012, according to audited financial statements due out later this month.

The report, prepared by an independent auditor and obtained by WWL-TV on Monday, notes that the 420-bed Metairie hospital saw its net position — its total assets minus its total liabilities — erode by 6 percent, down to $270.8 million in 2013.

The Jefferson Parish Council has spent the better part of a year debating the fate of both the east bank hospital and West Jefferson Medical Center in an effort to find a private company interested in taking over their operations and shoring up their finances.

Three companies initially sought to take over the two hospitals, but East Jefferson now finds itself without a suitor following the withdrawal of HCA and Ochsner Health System. The two companies dropped their bids, complaining the process had gone on too long, and the third, Children’s Hospital operator LCMC, has turned its attention exclusively to West Jefferson, with which it is now in negotiations.

Still, parish officials said Monday that East Jefferson’s latest audit only highlights the urgency of finding a private-sector partner for the hospital.

“This further underscores the need to move forward as part of a larger system so that (East Jefferson) can continue to provide quality care for future generations,” Parish President John Young said.

Parish Councilman Ben Zahn said that while East Jefferson’s financial performance is unfortunate, the hospital has managed to maintain a high standard of medical care, has enough cash to satisfy its bond covenants and hasn’t defaulted on its bond obligations.

“They are actually doing what they can do with what they have,” he said.

Zahn said the council will take further steps later this month to help East Jefferson find a private partner, though he said he could not provide any details.

The report said the hospital trimmed $3.3 million in salaries in 2013. Zahn said hospital officials have told him East Jefferson cut 15 jobs last year, with the remaining savings coming from allocating its staff more effectively.

Despite a 2 percent decline in hospital admissions, operating revenue rose 2 percent to $367.7 million on the strength of outpatient services. However, that revenue was more than offset by $385.2 million in operating expenses, also 2 percent higher than last year.

East Jefferson’s total assets fell by $23 million, or 5 percent, in 2013 to $491.7 million.

Total liabilities dropped by 3 percent in 2013 to $220.9 million, as the hospital paid off $3.6 million in long-term debt, which stood at $163.2 million at the end of the year.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, who chairs the East Jefferson hospital board, could not be reached for comment.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.