The proposed partnership between Ochsner Health System and Slidell Memorial Hospital is on hold while the state Attorney General’s Office reviews a joint application the two entities submitted in August.
When the agreement was announced in April, Ochsner and SMH refused to characterize it as a purchase or acquisition, instead referring to the arrangement as a “strategic partnership.”
Nevertheless, the two submitted a joint application in August to the Attorney General’s Office, which by law is required to review acquisitions of any of the state’s not-for-profit hospitals.
That review is ongoing, and a public hearing has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday in Slidell Memorial’s Founders Building on Robert Road, according to hospital spokeswoman Ann Barks.
The application for a review was submitted out of an “abundance of caution,” said David Gaines, an Ochsner senior vice president of public affairs. Because Ochsner has a full-service hospital less than two miles from Slidell Memorial, officials felt having the attorney general review the partnership to make sure it wouldn’t qualify as an acquisition was a prudent move.
Gaines said each hospital would remain an independent entity.
“Each organization retains full ownership of its name, assets and operations, and the SMH and OHS boards maintain all current responsibilities,” he said.
In 2014, Ochsner announced a similar partnership with St. Tammany Parish Hospital, but it didn’t submit a similar application in that case. Ochsner does not operate a hospital in the western part of the parish.
In announcing the agreement in April, Ochsner CEO Warner Thomas said SMH would join the Ochsner Health Network, even while it remains an independent entity with its own board. Slidell Memorial’s board is made up of seven members appointed by Slidell’s legislative delegation, plus two medical staff members.
Under the agreement, Ochsner will have access to SMH’s cancer and heart centers, as well as its emergency department, officials said in April.
According to the April announcement, a strategic oversight committee will oversee joint activity. It will have equal representation from Ochsner and SMH.
Beyond a statement issued Friday confirming the public hearing, Slidell Memorial officials said they could not comment on the situation because it is a legal matter.
In April, board Chairman David Manella said the partnership was crucial to the hospital’s growing stronger and expanding.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.