Both sides in the lease negotiations for West Jefferson Medical Center are “working well together” and the Jefferson Parish Council should receive an outline of a lease agreement next month, Parish Attorney Deborah Foshee said this week.
The details of that agreement have not been made public, but progress toward a deal suggests negotiations with LCMC Health, which was selected by the council earlier this year to lease the public hospital, are getting back on track after they seemed headed for derailment just a few weeks ago.
“I expect the parish will have a fairly fleshed-out transactional document in August,” Foshee said.
That document would not be a final agreement, but it is expected to lay out the basic terms of a deal.
It is not yet clear whether those terms will be made public in August or if they will be discussed only in a closed-door executive session.
The council is expected to hold such a session next month to discuss both the negotiations and the financial status of West Jefferson Medical Center and East Jefferson General Hospital.
If the substantial outlines of a deal are hashed out by the next council meeting, it would represent significant progress in a process that recently seemed to be facing serious problems. Earlier this month, sources familiar with the negotiations said the parish’s consultants on the deal had raised concerns that LCMC was changing the terms it had previously offered the parish for taking over the hospital.
LCMC denied that was the case and fired off a letter threatening to withdraw its bid over what it characterized as interference by some members of the council who have long opposed letting it lease the hospital.
Asked whether the terms of the LCMC offer had substantially changed, Foshee said this week that “different people have different interpretations.”
On Wednesday, the Parish Council also removed a procedural hurdle to a lease of either of the hospitals by unanimously voting to dissolve the Jefferson Parish Hospital and Health Services District, an umbrella entity created in 2009 to encompass the hospital districts that control each of the parish’s two public hospitals. At the time, the combined district was seen as a way to allow the hospitals to cooperate and find efficiencies without eliminating their independent boards.
However, collaboration between the hospitals remained limited. They kept most of their operations in-house, and as a result, significant savings from the so-called “third hospital district” never materialized.
It was the new district, made up of members of each hospital’s board, that oversaw the process of fielding proposals from private firms to take over the two financially struggling hospitals. That process ended in an impasse between the boards last summer over which of three companies to select, and the deadlock later carried over to the Parish Council.
With the parish now seeking to lease West Jefferson to LCMC and East Jefferson’s fate uncertain, the hospital district had to be dissolved to prevent potential conflicts of interest or other issues, officials said.