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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The LSU Board of Supervisors approved contracts Tuesday to privatize four more of its public hospitals in agreements missing key financing details, including how much the state receives for turning over management.
The contracts cover privatization of LSU’s hospitals in Houma, Lake Charles, Monroe and Shreveport. Backing came despite concerns from some lawmakers, who told board members that more information was needed to make sure the state was getting a good deal.
Board Chairman Hank Danos said he’s confident in the contracts because the university system and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration have been vetting the arrangements with lawyers and technical experts.
“We think we’ll be getting the best deal that we possibly can with what we have to work with,” Danos said after the meeting.
Approval from the board handed authority to sign off on final deals, including items like the amount for lease and rental payments, to LSU System President William Jenkins. For some of the deals, blank pages were included where some lease terms should be.
“We care tremendously about specifics, but we also trust Dr. Jenkins,” Danos said.
Jindal wants to privatize all but one of LSU’s 10 hospitals that cared for the poor and uninsured and that provide training to many medical and other health care students.
With Tuesday’s approval from the LSU board, seven privatization contracts have been signed, with prior deals covering Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans hospitals. Baton Rouge’s hospital was closed, and most of its services were shifted to a private hospital.
Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, asked the board to delay approval until all the documents for the Shreveport and Monroe deals were available. Lease arrangements were still under negotiation, and many of the planned attachments to the contract weren’t included because final versions still were being decided.
“What is the rush?” said Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport. “I ask you all, I plead with you all not to sign this contract today.”
LSU hospital leaders said the privatization arrangements will preserve safety net care for the uninsured, offer them new services and enhance graduate medical training programs around the state.
“We think it is the best solution going forward,” said Robert Barish, chancellor of the LSU Health Sciences Center-Shreveport, which oversees the Shreveport and Monroe hospitals, along with another hospital in Pineville whose privatization deal hasn’t been approved yet.
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