No sooner had we posted our account of the planned firing of LSU System Office General Counsel Raymond Lamonica than we learned that the Piyush Jindal administration has also relieved Dr. Roxanne Townsend of her position as CEO of the Interim LSU Public Hospital in New Orleans, a position she has held since 2009.
LouisianaVoice learned from independent sources that she was called into the office of Dr. Frank Opelka last Friday and informed that he planned to go “in another direction” with the LSU health care system. Opelka was named head of the health care system on Aug. 26 following the firing of his predecessor, Dr. Fred Cerise.
The “direction” alluded to by Dr. Opelka is apparently to remove from positions of responsibility anyone who does not bow and scrape at the Piyush pewter image. (For those who don’t know, pewter is defined as a dull, malleable alloy comprised mostly of tin; ergo, the Tin Man—with no heart.)
Dr. Townsend, a native of Pennsylvania, graduated from the LSU School of Medicine-New Orleans in 1992 and did her post-graduate training in Internal Medicine in Baton Rouge and also served as Chief Resident in Internal Medicine at Earl K. Long Hospital in Baton Rouge.
She has served as CEO of the Interim LSU Public Hospital in New Orleans since 2009. She previously worked for Dr. Cerise as the Chief Operating Officer at Earl K. Long and upon Dr. Cerise’s departure for the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), she was named Interim CEO. In July of 2004, she moved to DHH as Medicaid Medical Director where her responsibilities included oversight of all aspects of DHH’s Disease Management and Clinical Quality activities.
Following the closure of Charity Hospital in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Lamonica, representing LSU, obtained a $474 million settlement with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), part of which was used to convert the former Hotel Dieu into the Interim Louisiana Hospital which, besides serving as a medical safety net for indigent patients, also trains 300 resident physicians—200 from LSU and 100 from the Tulane Medical School—and to get the University Hospital campus up and operative.
News of Dr. Townsend’s demotion comes on the heels of reports that the administration plans to fire Lamonica, the man who negotiated that FEMA settlement. Last April, the LSU Board voted to fire John Lombardi as president of the LSU system and followed that last month with the firing of Dr. Cerise.
Jindal presently controls all but one of the appointments of the LSU Board, so it is impossible for him to separate himself from board action, no matter how much his media mouthpiece Kyle Plotkin may try to deny it. Any board action must be considered to have been taken at Jindal’s behest.
Given Piyush’s ongoing putsch, the question must be asked: when are legislators going to gather sufficient stones between them to stand as a body and say to this tyrant: “ENOUGH! There is only so much we as a legislative body will take from you in exchange for appropriations for our districts. There comes a time when your personal ambition may no longer run roughshod over the state’s principles, dignity and respect and you long ago crossed that line.”
Where is that so-called independent legislature? You are needed more today than at any time in this state’s history. But your timid silence is deafening.
And where are the voters in these legislators’ districts? You are equally mute when you should be at your very angriest–and loudest.