Ochsner Health System will make improvements to the safety-net hospitals in north Louisiana under its new management deal to operate the facilities, the head of the system said Monday as the oversight contracts were officially signed.
Operating rooms will be renovated, technology will be upgraded and equipment will be modernized as part of the management switch, Ochsner CEO Warner Thomas said as he appeared in Shreveport with Gov. John Bel Edwards and other officials to celebrate the deal.
A new company jointly controlled by Louisiana State University and Ochsner will take control of the state-owned hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe on Oct. 1. The facilities care for the poor and uninsured and help train LSU medical students.
Thomas said Ochsner has done a "complete assessment" of the facilities and determined "there's some work that needs to be done there." In addition to other improvements, he said Ochsner also will introduce its electronic health record system at the hospitals and enhance digital medicine and telehealth programs.
"You'll see us make those investments over the next year," Thomas said at the Shreveport event, which was streamed live online. "There's a tremendous need for new capabilities, new faculty, new programs, and we're going to partner with LSU to build those things."
The new Ochsner/LSU not-for-profit corporation replaces BRF, which has managed the hospitals since 2013 and repeatedly clashed with LSU and state officials over back-owed debts and their effect on graduate medical education.
The management contract with Ochsner runs for 10 years, with two possible extensions of five years each. The deal's price tag will grow to $294 million annually, up from $251 million earmarked for the BRF contract.
Southeast Louisiana-based Ochsner owns, manages or is affiliated with more than two dozen hospitals in Louisiana. The company helps to manage the safety-net hospital in Terrebonne Parish.
Edwards, whose administration crafted the management transfer deal, said the arrangement between Ochsner and LSU will be a "true partnership."
"We're not going to have two silos that operate independently of each other," he said.
Former BRF board chairman Stephen Skrivanos will have a seat on the management board of the new corporation called Ochsner LSU Health System of North Louisiana that will run the Shreveport and Monroe hospitals. He said he was "the happiest guy in the room" to see the management transfer, but he also defended BRF's oversight.
"We have turned these hospitals around," Skrivanos said. "They are in much better shape than they were when we took them over."
Through a series of no-bid contracts, former Gov. Bobby Jindal privatized nine LSU-run charity hospitals and clinics, starting in 2013. Most of the deals turned over the facilities to other hospital operators. But BRF, a biomedical research foundation, had never previously run a patient-care facility.
The Edwards administration, LSU leaders and Ochsner officials also were celebrating the hospitals' deal at a Monday event in Monroe.