In The News › Jefferson Parish Coroner urges Parish Council to take more time, seek advice on hospital lease

Jefferson Parish Coroner urges Parish Council to take more time, seek advice on hospital lease

By Ben Myers | The Times-Picayune

December 11, 2013

Jefferson Parish Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich on Wednesday urged the Parish Council to take more time in deciding how and to whom to lease the parish’s public hospitals. Cvitanovich, publicly addressing the council before its meeting, said health care professionals or a new consulting firm should help the council establish a method of scoring all proposals from potential lessees.

“Bring them in, let them spend a day with you guys, a day at East Jefferson, a day at West Jefferson, a day with our citizens,” Cvitanovich said.

The parish’s consultant, Kaufman Hall & Associates, Inc., which is based in Skokie, Ill., solicited interest from 17 potential lessees last year. Over the next year, Kaufman Hall assisted the governing boards of West Jefferson Medical Center and East Jefferson General Hospital in narrowing the pool to three finalists: Ochsner Health System, Louisiana Children’s Medical Center and Hospital Corp. of America.

Cvitanovich’s call for a clear scoring method echoes the concern of Bureau of Governmental Research, which said in a critical report last month that the process has fallen into “total disarray.” Cvitanovich further suggested that all firms that originally expressed consideration should receive new consideration.

The process for choosing an operator has been muddy since late summer, when the hospital boards failed to agree on a recommendation of an operator. West Jefferson wants Children’s and East Jefferson endorses HCA. An ancillary fight over whether to seek a conclusive recommendation from Kaufman Hall followed, with some council members questioning the integrity of the firm, which has received $1.3 million for its work.

Kaufman Hall has suggested allowing the hospitals to split ways with their preferred lessees, a move that Councilmembers Paul Johnston, Cynthia Lee-Sheng and Ben Zahn have said they support. Council Chairman Chris Roberts, who announced his support for Children’s in September, opposes a split. Inspector General David McClintock suggests simultaneous negotiations with multiple operators with the aim of leasing both hospitals to one of them.

Several West Jefferson employees told council members at public hearing Monday that the inability to reach a decision is wearing on them. Cvitanovich acknowledged the public is fed up and wants the council to make a decision, but he urged the council to “take the time and money to get it right.”

Roberts, reiterating that no vote has been set, said the council intends to determine a course of action after another public hearing on Dec. 17 at the Yenni Building in Elmwood. The council is currently engaged in “internal discussions” with the administration and McClintock on the process that will follow, Roberts said.

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