LCMC’s plan to acquire three HCA-owned Tulane hospitals for $150 million went public in Baton Rouge Thursday in one of the final regulatory steps required before the sale can proceed.
At a well-attended public hearing in Baton Rouge, hospital and university officials argued for the purchase from the Louisiana attorney general’s office as a sea of employees in white coats and a handful of nurses in coats. The office must decide whether to allow the sale by February 16.
“You couldn’t fit in this room, or probably in this building, all of the people who come to us and express their public support for this transaction and how it will affect the lives of the people of New Orleans.” , said Patrick Norton, Chief Operating Officer. Tulane University officer.
LCMC and Tulane University officials said if the sale of Tulane Medical Center is approved, they plan to transfer most patients and employees to CBD University Medical Center or East Jefferson Hospital in Metairie. The downtown hospital building would then be repurposed for medical research and a nursing program.
The sale also includes Tulane Lakeside Hospital in Metairie and Lakeview Regional Medical Center in Covington.
Louisiana’s COPA law
Louisiana is one of about 19 states that has a Certificate of Public Benefit, or COPA, a law that governs mergers and sales of healthcare facilities rather than being regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, which is responsible for enforcing antitrust laws to maintain a competitive marketplace. The certificate allows hospitals to enjoy immunity from lawsuits related to federal or state antitrust laws.
Under Louisiana’s COPA law, the certificate can only be issued if the attorney general’s office concludes that “the agreement is likely to result in lower health care costs or is likely to result in better access to health care or better quality health care without any undue increase in health expenditure. »
The FTC, which has cracked down on hospital mergers in recent years, released case studies of mergers under the COPA laws, warning that some hospital mergers allowed under those laws still command higher prices. If the sale goes through, New Orleans would become a healthcare duopoly, with only Ochsner Health and LCMC operating all hospitals in the area.
About 30 people spoke in favor of the sale on Wednesday, including Jefferson Parish officials, Tulane Medical Center doctors, Tulane medical students and staff, LCMC administrators and nursing administrators who had previous experience with LCMC acquisitions in other hospitals. They said the sale would lead to better patient care and attract and retain more doctors in more specialties. Many also said it would allow for large-scale research and serve patients from across the southern Gulf while allowing Louisiana residents to stay in the state for medical care.
Seven people spoke out against the sale, including a New Orleans resident who said he spoke on behalf of a list of pastors, nonprofit workers, teachers and community members in New Orleans. -Orleans. Opponents said they didn’t think fewer hospital beds would be good for patient care and were concerned about UMC emergency room wait times.
A group of nurses also came to the attorney general’s office ahead of the hearing to oppose the sale and demand recognition of a newly formed union. They said they felt caught off guard and had few details on how to improve patient care and staff treatment. More than 300 nurses have signed a petition delivered to HCA Healthcare demanding a say in the future of Tulane Medical Center and not to cut jobs or wages.
“We are the ones who hold your family’s hands when they die, we are the ones who clean your family when they are soiled,” said Michael Robertshaw, a critical care nurse at Tulane Medical Center. “No one asks the nurses on the ground who do the hard work day in and day out what we think, and it has to happen.”
“Unsustainable” HCA partnership
Doctors in favor of the deal said part of the appeal was a change in partnership. Several said HCA’s ownership limits the medical center’s potential and threatens patient safety.
“Our relationship with HCA is not sustainable,” said Dr. Nakeisha Pierre, cardiovascular anesthesiologist, who described two instances in which patient care was compromised due to what she described as a lack of investment. . In one example, a patient suffered brain damage during the time it took staff to access a tape-wrapped equipment box. In another, Pierre described a critical piece of equipment used to test the strength of blood clots that had broken down.
“There is no investment in patient care,” Pierre said. “There is no investment in patient safety.”
Dr. Jacquelyn Turner described decades-old documentation technology that had not been updated by HCA, she said.
“I operate under an archaic electronic medical records system, which to me is from the 1980s,” said Turner, vice president of surgical training at Tulane. “It is very difficult and difficult to take care of patients when the electronic system is so outdated.”
Dr. Robert Hoover, section chief of nephrology and hypertension, said HCA was “completely misaligned” with Tulane University’s mission because the system’s priority was profit, not research.
“They did health care, they made money,” Hoover said. “Our main hospital has not been given the resources to be a true academic medical center.”
In a final statement, LCMC leaders expressed concern over the loss of hospital beds in New Orleans. Although it is a 235-bed hospital, the TMC was less than 50% occupied last year, said JoAnn Kunkel, LCMC’s chief financial officer. Officials also reiterated that they would not cut jobs.
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