Gov. Bobby Jindal had another roadblock thrown in his path to privatization of four LSU hospitals on Wednesday when the State Civil Service Commission, by a 4-3 vote, rejected the state’s contracts with private hospitals to take over state-run facilities in New Orleans, Lafayette, Houma and Lake Charles.
The matter has already been scheduled for a re-hearing on Monday at 8 a.m. in the Louisiana Purchase Room on the first floor of the Claiborne Building at 1201 North Third Street in Baton Rouge.
In taking the action, commission members complained that the information provided by LSU was insufficient.
Really? A contract with 50 blank pages was not enough? The commission perhaps needed some specifics—like an offer and an acceptance and a termination clause?
It should be noted that the commission did not vote to reject the administration’s layoff plans relative to the privatization of the Interim Hospital in New Orleans, University Medical Center in Lafayette, Leonard Chabert Medical Center in Houma and W.O. Moss Medical Center in Lake Charles.
Civil Service Director Shannon Templet must make a decision on the layoff plan by next Tuesday in order for the layoffs to become effective on June 24.
But if the privatization plan is not approved, the hospitals would necessarily have to keep nearly 3,000 classified employees on the job in order to keep the hospitals open.
Dr. Fred Cerise, the former head of the LSU Health System who was fired by Jindal (through the Board of Stuporvisors, of course), said on Wednesday that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) still has not given the go-ahead for the hospital privatization plan and without that approval, everything else is moot.
Cerise said the state plans to use the $110 million that Children’s Hospital in New Orleans is paying to take over the Interim Hospital (formerly Big Charity before that facility was abandoned after Hurricane Katrina and a new structure built) will be used by the state to leverage greater matching funds from Medicaid.
“But if CMS does not approve the plan, the state will have to repay Medicaid for any excess money it received on the basis of that $110 million,” he said, adding, “I don’t think there’s any way CMS is going to give its stamp of approval to this plan.”
Dr. Michael Kaiser, Chief Executive Officer of the LSU Health Care Services Division, said he would ask the commission to reconsider its decision. He said the commission would be provided with the agreements between LSU and the private companies.
“I’m not sure what they intend to show the commission on Monday,” Cerise said, “but there’s no way they can show a savings when contracts for privatizing two of the hospitals (Chabert and Moss) don’t even contain any financial details.”
That, of course, raises the question of just why was the commission not provided copies of the agreements in the first place. Did Kaiser expect the commission to simply rubber stamp the privatization plan as it has in the past and as the LSU Board of Stuporvisers does on a regular basis with anything Jindal sends over?
In the past the Board of Stuporvisers has done Jindal’s bidding without question—from the firing of LSU President John Lombardi, LSU System General Counsel Raymond Lamonica, and Drs. Roxanne Townsend and Cerise, to operating in complete secrecy to hire a new LSU president who possesses credentials that are questionable at best, to approving essentially blank contracts for the takeover of LSU hospitals in Shreveport, Monroe, Houma and Lake Charles. The contracts consisted of about 50 blank pages and contained no mention of financial terms, specific offers, acceptances or termination clauses.
And for the privilege of doing Jindal’s bidding, members of the Board of Stuporvisers get to metaphorically lick the master’s hand with campaign contributions totaling about a quarter-million dollars between them.
All of which raises another question that no one has asked to this point but one for which there is a desperate need for an answer:
• When was the last time the LSU Board of Stuporvisors took any action during this governor’s administration that supported academics and was not done to achieve a political agenda—Jindal’s political agenda, to be specific?
Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?
Kaiser, in the wake of the unexpected rejection of the administration’s plan by the commission, only now bemoans the fact that in anticipation of approval of the privatization, the public hospitals have no money in the state budget for the new fiscal year that begins on July 1.
That would be because Jindal did not include funding in his budget back in January because he was certain his privatization plan would be approved.
Somewhere out there, the ghost of Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle is flashing a big, innocent grin and saying to Bobby Jindal, aka Barney Fife, “Sur-PRISE, Sur-PRISE, Sur-PRISE!” (Our apologies to Barney Fife.)
Kaiser said the administration would have to try and determine what other action could be taken if the privatization is not approved.
More than 3,500 employees work at the four hospitals. Of that number, 2,953 are classified, or Civil Service rank-and-file employees. The remainder are unclassified and do not enjoy Civil Service protection. Their layoffs do not have to be approved by the commission.
More than half of the classified employees (1,690) are employed at the Interim Hospital in New Orleans. The remainder are at University Medical Center in Lafayette (487), Leonard Chabert Medical Center in Houma (556) and W.O. Moss Medical Center in Lake Charles (220).
It will be interesting to see if any legislators from the affected areas show up for Monday’s Civil Service Commission re-hearing. Republican House Speaker Chuck Kleckley is from Lake Charles.
Other Calcasieu Parish House members include Democrats Michael Danahay, A.B. Franklin, and Dorothy Sue Hill and Republicans Brett Geymann, John Guinn and Ben Hensgens.
Calcasieu senators include Republicans John Smith, Ronnie Johns and Dan “Blade” Morrish.
House members from Lafayette Parish include Democrats Terry Landry, Jack Montoucet, Stephen Orgego and Vincent Pierre and Republicans Taylor Barras, Stuart Bishop, Nancy Landry, and Joel Robideaux.
Senators who represent Lafayette Parish are Republicans Elbert Guillory, Johathan Perry, Page Cortez and Fred Mills.
Terrebonne/Lafourche parish House members include Republicans Gordon Dove, Sr., Joe Harrison and Lenar Whitney of Terrebonne and Democrat Jerry Gisclair and Independent Jerome “Dee” Richard, both of Lafourche. Richard, by the way, was present at Wednesday’s commission hearing.
Representing Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes in the Senate are Democrats Troy Brown and Gary Smith and Republicans Norbert Chabert and Bret Allain.
Orleans Parish House members include Democrats Neil Abramson, Jeffery Arnold, Austin Badon, Wesley Bishop, Jared Brossett, Walt Leger and Helena Moreno. Orleans Republicans include Raymond Garofalo, Christopher Leopold and Nick Lorusso.
Senators who represent Orleans include Republicans A.G. Crowe and Conrad Appel and Democrats Karen Carter Peterson, Jean-Paul Morrell, David Heitmeier and Edwin Murray.