In The News › Jefferson Parish hospitals lease is in ‘total disarray’ and ‘shrouded in secrecy’, BGR says

Jefferson Parish hospitals lease is in ‘total disarray’ and ‘shrouded in secrecy’, BGR says

By Ben Myers

NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

November 07, 2013

The Bureau of Governmental Research criticized Jefferson Parish on Thursday for how it is selecting a private operator to lease the parish’s two public hospitals. The process is in “total disarray,” lacking objective criteria and “shrouded in secrecy,” the report states.

The criticisms have a familiar ring, as the non-profit government watchdog organization has recently frowned on Jefferson’s contracting practices. Last year BGR issued an extensive report calling out what it says is the Parish Council’s practically unfettered discretion in procurement.

The troubled hospital lease process serves only to demonstrate the continued need for reforms, BGR said. The fact that such an important decision-making process could fall into disarray is telling,” the report states.

BGR, highlighting the advice of the parish’s consultant, Kaufman Hall & Associates Inc., says the lessee selection needs an objective scoring system with clearly stated, weighted criteria.

The governing boards of West Jefferson Medical Center and East Jefferson General Hospital are deeply divided over whether to lease to Louisiana Children’s Medical Center, which is West Jefferson’s choice, or Hospital Corp. of America. But the public was shut out of the deliberations that led up to these decisions. BGR criticizes the boards for making it “difficult for the public to discern what the process is.”

The Parish Council selects the lessee, and it, too, is divided.

The two hospital boards have cited broad exemptions to Louisiana’s public disclosure laws as their reason for conducting most of their business behind closed doors. Legal analysts and public-interest advocates have criticized those exemptions, as well as the manner in which the hospitals have used them.

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