Shreveport hospital manager offers rebuttal to LSU claims of mismanagement, contract breach



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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — The foundation that manages LSU's Shreveport and Monroe hospitals under a privatization deal says it has sought to bring in an outside mediator to work out disputes with LSU, but the university has rejected the effort.

LSU has charged that the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, known as BRF, failed to live up to its contract.

In a 21-page letter to LSU late Wednesday, BRF issued a point-by-point rebuttal of accusations it has breached the hospital oversight agreement. Instead, the foundation said LSU leaders have thwarted efforts to ease the transition and remedy concerns.

"Each and every attempt we have made to objectively address outstanding problems has been rejected," Steve Skrivanos, chairman of the BRF board, wrote to LSU System President F. King Alexander.

Skrivanos said that since the research foundation took over management of the two hospitals nearly two years ago, it has decreased overtime costs, reduced patient wait times, increased hospital admissions and clinic visits and lowered patient complaints.

"We are eager to work cooperatively with LSU to resolve any disputes," he wrote.

LSU refused to comment Thursday on the hospital manager's letter. University spokesman Ernie Ballard said in an email that LSU had received the document and will "have no comments while negotiations are underway."

In his July 10 letter alleging breach of contract, Alexander accused the research foundation of "actions and activities that are contrary, and in fact antagonistic, to the best interests of LSU and the state."

Alexander said BRF hasn't established a sustainable financial model for the hospitals, has damaged the LSU Shreveport medical school's reputation and threatened the stability of both the medical school and the hospitals. He described unpaid debts owed by BRF and shortages of needed hospital supplies.

The response from the research foundation said complaints of incomplete documents and unpaid debts are more than a year old and have been resolved. Skrivanos wrote: "At some point, it is our hope that the past would be the past and we can move forward."

He insisted BRF supports the LSU teaching mission, has never refused needed resources or supplies to medical students and is following a sustainable business model for the hospitals. But he wrote that the research foundation has concerns about LSU trying to maintain control over hospital policies.

Skrivanos proposed a meeting to work through the concerns and draw up the remaining agreements sought by LSU. But he pushed back against a demand from Alexander that calls for the foundation's president and CEO, John George, to resign from BRF and be banned from any association with LSU.

Skrivanos said George agreed "to have his involvement in hospital affairs be determined by third party resolution" but will remain in his position until then.

George was one of Gov. Bobby Jindal's appointees to the LSU Board of Supervisors at the time the hospital privatization deal was struck. He has since resigned from the university board.

BRF took control of the two north Louisiana hospitals in October 2013 through a no-bid contract, part of Jindal's push to privatize most of the university-run public hospital system. It had never previously run a patient care facility.

The foundation recently has accused LSU of working with a competing health care provider in the region, Willis-Knighton Health System, to try to undermine the privatization deal.

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