"That's a decision for the board and the LSU System president. With the changing environment in healthcare today, LSU's health system needs a leader who can implement reforms that deliver services more efficiently," Plotkin said in an e-mail.
Cerise, a former CEO of LSU's hospital in Baton Rouge, has been an ardent defender of the current university-run healthcare system, which includes 10 hospitals and dozens of outpatient clinics. He's disputed Jindal administration claims that the system is outdated and in need of sweeping change, and in his statement Friday, Cerise talked of the public hospital system's accomplishments.
"The integrated model of service delivery and reimbursement we have established at LSU is a model for efficient and effective care that healthcare policy experts recognize as essential if we are to contain costs and improve care across large populations in the U.S.," he said.
Contacted by phone, Cerise wouldn't provide details about what led to his removal from a leadership role. His contract with LSU goes until 2015, so he will keep an LSU job for now, though it was unclear what he'll do at the university system.
"Dr. Jenkins has given me some time for me to think about what's the right place and the right fit," said Cerise, who had been vice president for health affairs and medical education since 2007.
Jenkins announced that Frank Opelka, vice chancellor for clinical affairs at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, will take over leadership of the hospital system. Opelka is being given a newly created job: executive vice president for healthcare and medical education redesign.
"Dr. Opelka's distinguished career and his wealth of experience will go a long way toward the immediate and long-range changes needed in health care delivery in the state of Louisiana," Jenkins said of the surgeon in a statement.
The Jindal administration decided to levy much of an ongoing federal Medicaid cut on the LSU-run network of hospitals and outpatient clinics. LSU is using stopgap funding to stave off many of the immediate cuts to the health system that cares for the uninsured and trains many of Louisiana's medical professionals.
But state Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein has said continued drops in financing should be expected annually. Estimates are that the cuts will strip about a quarter of the hospital system's more than $1 billion budget.
Jindal and the governor's allies on the LSU Board of Supervisors have said the hospitals need to be updated, and the safety-net system of care needs to be reworked.
"Frank's expertise and guidance will be valuable to us as we modernize our methods of delivering health care while adjusting to our financial realities in producing a sustainable, community-involved healthcare system that meets our residents' needs," Jenkins said.
Cerise had been a prominent supporter of the existing model, and LSU leaders made it clear he was being marginalized in discussions of a healthcare system revamp. At a legislative hearing earlier this summer, LSU board member Bobby Yarborough told lawmakers that Cerise wouldn't be making the decisions.
Cerise also ran afoul of the Jindal administration by suggesting the hospitals could be helped by the federal healthcare law pushed by President Barack Obama.
As LSU leaders sought suggestions for how to cut costs, Cerise suggested using bridge funds to keep all university-run health facilities open until 2014, then tapping into Medicaid expansion dollars available under the federal law.
Jindal, a Republican, is refusing to expand Medicaid in Louisiana, calling it too expensive for states and the federal government. The governor is pushing for repeal of the healthcare law.