- Elliott Stonecipher
For any who do not know, the war continues to rage between the Office of the Governor of Louisiana and John George and his BRF (Biomedical Research Foundation) in Shreveport.
The long fought-over new “agreement” between the two, just recently inked, meant little, if anything. Each day this week George has (a) breached the contract by not making agreed-upon payments to the state, (b) issued public statements to announce he had then done so, and (c) been proven the next news cycle to have deliberately not told the truth in the previous one.
Not too many days ago, on October 10th, AP reporter / writer Melinda Deslatte filed a prescient analysis piece entitled, “Hospital Deal Doesn’t Mean Relationship Improves.”
Having closely followed this nasty piece of state (and Shreveport) business for all the years since former-Governor Bobby Jindal sired it, Ms. Deslatte has consistently armed all who care with the actual facts of the matter.
As I put it, the pooh-bahs struttin’ their political-power stuff in this despise each other.
A deal will never be a deal.
The people of Louisiana, especially those who are ill and receiving care in these hospitals, are mere pawns in this noxious game, as are the employees and vendors of the University Health system.
Like Ms. Deslatte, I know this subject and related events well, and have from the jump. I know the reasons this nastiness and ugliness and dishonorable conduct will end only upon the exit of current shot-callers.
For a few months in the very beginning of the dispute, I consulted with Willis-Knighton Health System, while it investigated the state’s decision by Governor Jindal. John George was then our area member on the LSU Board of Supervisors.
Shockingly, that same Board of Supervisors handed the Shreveport and Monroe safety-net hospitals to BRF, the Biomedical Research Foundation. Yes, the Board of Supervisors’ “own” John George was the shot-caller of that organization.
As if to telegraph the fusillade of punches yet to come, the original contract between LSU and BRF included 54 blank pages, and blacked-out any public transparency of BRF actions by exempting it from the requirements of the Louisiana Public Records Law.
My work was over in short order. In the earliest stages, WKHS was advised and otherwise recognized that anti-trust laws did not permit its involvement. Its dominant market share in the subject Northwest Louisiana area, some 70%, was the period at the end of that sentence. My focus was extricating WKHS from a deal which was obviously, as I often explained, “not real.”
Whatever Governor Jindal intended, only funny-money backed it up. No such deal was then actually, honestly, legally doable.
The tortured and publicly destructive process of turning BRF into “a hospital company” when it never was intended to be one continues to prove the point.
Here is what the BRF website now states:
“BRF, formerly Biomedical Research Foundation, will continue to own and operate North Louisiana’s safety net hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe under a new collaborative partnership agreement we have reached with the State and LSU.
We are very pleased that through negotiations we were able to reach an agreement similar to those executed with the other private partners, leading to a more balanced and sustainable financial model for the hospitals and LSU.
We are also optimistic that the Memorandum of Understanding will serve as a platform in working collaboratively with LSU and the State to reach our highest and best potential.”
This week’s events loudly and terribly mock those words.
Here is the truth: the current and unending war being waged by top University Health bosses – a war actually waged against the unarmed people of Louisiana – is dishonorable. In point of fact, it is unconscionable.
Thousands of us know those bosses are openly and destructively defaulting on their agreement with Governor Edwards and the state he personifies. We know these bosses are breaking the law, that is, the Memorandum of Understanding they just negotiated and signed.
We know they are, it must follow, maliciously violating the most basic ethical rules and standards.
I have for decades known and worked for and with the top executives and board members of tens of Louisiana hospitals, as have I worked with their professional associations. I say with confidence that not a single one or five or fifty or one hundred of them would be doing what the University Health top bosses are now doing.
My appeal, given all of this, is simple and direct: the BRF Board of Directors must act to end this awful display. We all know there is only one way to do that.
Ladies and gentlemen of the BRF Board, this duty and responsibility is purely yours.
© 2016 ELLIOTT STONECIPHER ALL RIGHTS RESERVED