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Some operators of state medical facilities threaten to leave partnership over budget impasse

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A day after Gov. John Bel Edwards told lawmakers that trying to cut $700 million from the state budget would be difficult and not without a lot of consequences, some private health care systems running state medical facilities warned the state that they may walk away from the public-private partnerships due to the budget impasse.

"Yesterday, I got a letter from University Medical Center, the new hospital in New Orleans. It is basically the notice that they are giving us, that they are withdrawing from their partnership effective July 1 based upon the anticipation of no funding being available to them,” said Jay Dardenne, commissioner of administration.

Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge said much the same Tuesday afternoon.

“This is the first time that had a state budget presented to the legislative body that had zero funding for the public-private partnerships across the state,” said Scott Wester, CEO of Our Lady of the Lake during a conference call with news reporters.

Edwards’ doomsday budget proposal without the infusion of any new revenues would deeply cuts funds for state-funded health care.

“If the legislative body does not put any funding in place, the wind-down moves from a six-month wind-down to a 48-hour wind down,” said Wester.

LCMC issued the following statement to FOX 8 News Tuesday afternoon.

"The partnership between the State of Louisiana and LCMC Health in operating University Medical Center New Orleans has worked remarkably well for nearly five years.

The current budget impasse, with the State’s failure to provide any funding for UMC in State Fiscal Year 2019, places this growth and success in jeopardy at a time when it is clear the partnership is delivering significant results.

LCMC Health and UMC have a responsibility to protect the 280-year legacy of delivering quality healthcare to those in need, and to the professionals who remain dedicated to and UMC’s mission. We remain firmly committed to the partnership and the employees of UMC.

This community – indeed, the entire State of Louisiana – is healthier and economically stronger because of UMC."

Upon hearing hearing Dardenne’s comment, a state lawmaker representing New Orleans raised concerns that many medical professionals at UMC may begin looking for jobs elsewhere.

“One of my concerns is that of the 2,500 employees of the University Medical Center, many of them may immediately go over to the VA Hospital and apply for job opportunities there,” said Rep. Walt Leger, D-House Speaker Pro Tempore.

The governor wants lawmakers to conclude the regular session early so yet another special session can be called to deal with the budget crisis. New revenues cannot be considered during regular sessions during even numbered years.

And to lawmakers who refuse to consider new revenue measures, the governor issued a challenge. He wants them to pinpoint where they want to make $700 million in budget cuts to erase the fiscal cliff that will happen July 1 when a billion in temporary taxes expire.

"You're not asking us to just say from this department we suggest cutting this amount. You’re asking us to actually go to the budget units within the department and make those adjustments in HB1?” asked the Republican Vice Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee of Dardenne.

“Yes,” answered Dardenne. said Monday in addressing a joint session of state lawmakers.

Here is UMC's full letter to the governor: 

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