Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Proposed Hospital Merger Negotiations Need Transparency

For the past couple of weeks LJI Co-Director Jacques Morial has been working with Merger Watch (www.mergerwatch.org) and the ACLU of Louisiana to examine the proposed alliance between LSU and Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center (OLOL) in Baton Rouge. As you may know, LSU recently announced that it is cancelling the long -studied plans to build a replacement facility for Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge due to funding constraints. Instead, LSU has decided to pursue an alliance with the Franciscan owned and operated OLOL Hospital, where EKL patients would be treated at OLOL Hospital and where residents and other medical professionals would train.

This proposed alliance concerns us for several reasons, including:
1. Access to healthcare services in the North - Central Metro BR area would be severely curtailed.
2. Access to services and information related to reproductive health would likely be restricted at this private, catholic OLOL Hospital and facility.
3. Graduate Medical Education would likely not include critical training in reproductive health, including birth control and women's health, and sexually transmitted diseases.
4. The proposed alliance could give raise anti-trust concerns because of OLOL's already commanding market share of acute care hospital services in the Metro Baton Rouge Market.

Furthermore, there is a legal conflict: the Taylor and Porter law firm – attorneys for LSU – also represent OLOL. Taylor and Porter recently asked the State Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion on this matter. The Ethics commission was non-committal. What is telling is that the Taylor and Porter firm did not request an opinion from the one legal body responsible for governing ethical transgressions by Louisiana licensed attorneys, the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel. That would be Charles B. Plattsmier. Some call him Voldemort. No doubt, this fool-hearty move by the Firm will hit Mr. Plattsmier’s desk very soon. This issue is just more evidence of LSU's arrogant attitude related to healthcare access.

The fact that Taylor and Porter is representing both parties in this matter is outrageous. Even more disturbing is that we've seen no evidence of how this proposed alliance will improve access to vital healthcare services for the most vulnerable populations in the Baton Rouge area.

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