It is an exciting time in our state as we embark on a new era for health care in Louisiana that will greatly improve care, reduce costs for patients and taxpayers and better prepare the doctors of tomorrow.
We are embarking on this new and exciting era because in Louisiana, we were faced with the unique challenge of adapting a public-run, statewide charity hospital system to the evolving health care needs of our people. While our one-of-a-kind charity hospital system did tremendous work for decades—successfully serving the people of Louisiana and meeting their health care needs—we recognized that we needed to change the way we operate.
In order to continue meeting the needs of our people at a cost that was sustainable for taxpayers, we sought to convert our charity hospitals to public-private partnerships that will care for our most vulnerable, improve the level of care that’s offered and implement expanded services, all at an affordable cost.
To date, five charity hospitals—Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge (assuming operations of the former Earl K. Long Medical Center), Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma (partnering with Terrebone General Medical Center and Oschner Health System), W.O. Moss Regional Medical Center in Lake Charles (partnering with Lake Charles Memorial Health System), University Medical Center in Lafayette (partnering with Lafayette General Medical Center) and the Interim LSU Public Hospital in New Orleans (partnering with Louisiana Children’s Medical Center)—have now been transformed into public-private partnerships that strengthen safety net care for the people of Louisiana, lower costs and improve graduate medical education for future doctors.
By the start of next year, we expect four more hospitals—LSU’s Bogalusa Medical Center (partnering with St. Elizabeth Hospital, part of Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System), the EA Conway Medical Center in Monroe and LSU Medical Center-Shreveport (partnering with Biomedical Research Foundation) and the Huey P. Long Medical Center in Pineville (partnering with Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital and Rapides Regional Medical Center)—to join the ranks of effective and efficient public-private partnerships.
These partnerships allow the state to lease hospitals to private health care partners that offer better care at a more efficient cost. In fact, they’re on target to generate more than $125 million in savings for taxpayers this year, and we expect savings will only increase as the partnerships continue.
In addition, the nonpartisan Legislative Auditor has determined the hospital partnerships will reduce the state’s UAL (the debt of the retirement system) by $300 million while reducing the annual cost burden of the retirement system to government agencies by $82 million.
The partnerships achieve these savings through better financial models that focus more on hands-on health care professionals, allowing us to sustain services at pre-FMAP reduction levels despite the drastic $1.7 billion cut handed down to Louisiana by Congress last year.
More specifically, the partners utilize efficient modern staffing plans that provide more nurses to administer care and less bureaucratic middle office management, creating more patient access per dollar spent. The partners also have access to more modern technology that can deliver better, faster health care information for patients, as well as more bed capacity and a wider array of services.
Maybe most importantly, these partnerships won’t just strengthen our already strong safety net—they will make our hospitals and the services they offer better than they have ever been. We are creating a system with the infrastructure and resources needed to compete for outstanding medical students, to provide high quality care, to improve access for everyone in the region and to embark upon major research opportunities.
As a result of the partnerships, Louisiana residents will have increased access to expanded services in their local communities. Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge, for example, will elevate their Trauma Center to Level 1—a facility that can provide immediate treatment for the most severe emergencies. Level 1 trauma care includes specialized teams who are at the hospital and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to handle “extreme” events such as major automobile accidents and industrial incidents.
Many of the specialized services that had been eliminated and reduced during the past year at the public hospitals will also be reintroduced as a result of the partnerships. For example, Lafayette General has reintroduced critical orthopedic services at the former University Medical Center, which is now known as University Hospital and Clinics. Lafayette General also became a teaching hospital on July 1 for the first time. That milestone not only increased the number of graduate medical education training spots in the region but also resulted in expanded services, such as creating the first 24-hour, 365-day-a-year surgical hospitalist program in the area.
The work we’re doing will serve as a new model for how we can train more health professionals and treat our vulnerable residents with high quality care—all at a lower cost.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, LSU, and the thousands of health care professionals across our state who truly make a difference in the lives of our citizens each and every day should be commended for the work they’ve done on these partnerships and the work they will continue to do serving our people.
There is no question that it is a new day for healthcare in Louisiana. These partnerships are transforming access to services that our people need, lowering costs and providing better educational experiences for future health care professionals that our entire state will benefit from for years to come.
Bobby Jindal is governor of Louisiana. This piece originally appeared at the Baton Rouge Business Report.