West Jeff hospital lease agreement could get AG's approval soon - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

West Jeff hospital lease agreement could get AG's approval soon

West Jefferson said a lease partner is critical given its financial problems. (FOX 8 Photo) West Jefferson said a lease partner is critical given its financial problems. (FOX 8 Photo)
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

As early as Tuesday the La. Attorney General’s Office could either approve or disapprove the West Jefferson Medical Center lease deal.

The AG’s Office held a hearing Monday afternoon to hear from the public.

West Jeff Medical Center occupies a lot of real estate on the west bank of Jefferson Parish, but in recent years square footage has not translated into financial stability.

"Without the lease there would be major problems,” said WJMC Hospital Board Chairman Harry “Chip” Cahill.

The A-G’s Office will decide whether to sign off on the nearly $600 million lease agreement that would give control of the WJMC to LCMC Health which already runs the new University Medical Center, Children’s Hospital, Touro Infirmary and the New Orleans East Hospital.

"Economically West Jeff is one of the west bank’s largest employers and is vital to the future of our community,” said activist Mike Teachworth.

Activist Al Morella complained that he thought the deal was tantamount to a sale of a hospital owned by Jefferson Parish taxpayers.

He was reassured it was not.

Most from the public spoke in favor the lease agreement between the parish and LCMC Health.

Still, the process of getting to this point was criticized.

"It is obvious that a much better outcome could have occurred if the two hospitals were kept together,” said Wade Perrin, of the Jefferson Voters Federation.

He urged final completion of the deal.

An attorney from the A-G’s office spelled out the criteria for getting the office’s final approval.

"We are only by statute allowed to really review this transaction from whether or not it will continue to afford availability and affordable health care in this community and whether or not fair value was given,” said A-G’s Office attorney Tammny Scelfo during the public discussion.

"I'm confident that we'll get approval and we'll get this deal done. The valuation it's there, it's a good deal for LCMC, it's a good deal for West Jeff. It's a perfect partnership,” Cahill stated.

LCMC would operate WJMC for at least 45 years, pay $200 in lease payments upfront, and $340 million in capital improvements, along with some other funds.

"Our number one priority is stability for the employee base here, stability for the medical staff,” said Greg Feirn, CEO of LCMC Health.

He said they would later determine which capital improvements to focus on.

But would LCMC consider leasing the other parish owned hospital, East Jefferson?

"We as we've always said remain open to conversations with any folks in the New Orleans metro area, including East Jefferson General Hospital,” said Feirn.

West Jefferson said a lease partner is critical given its financial problems.

And adding to West Jefferson's fiscal pain is the demise of Avondale Shipyards.

"Avondale Shipyards provided us with thousands of insured customers and when those insured customers disappeared it changed our payer mix,” said Cahill.

He said 66 percent of the patient base of WJMC has government funded Medicare and Medicaid health coverage.

The Jefferson Parish Council approved the lease agreement months ago.

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