JEFFERSON PARISH, La. -- It's complicated, with many legal concerns, and they need more time, that's what the board members of East Jefferson General Hospital and West Jefferson Medical Center are saying about the task before them, to pick the group that will operate the two hospitals.
The 20 board members do not have a unified decision on if LCMC, Ochsner, or HCA should get the lease contract.
Wednesday, the Jefferson Parish Council Chamber was packed, and so was the agenda. Hospital board and council members decided the future of the hospitals needed more time.
"This is a big, big deal and we want to make sure that we're spending the adequate time in the review of the proposals in making sure that we are all on the same page in the prioritization of the issues that we're looking at," explained Sheriff Newell Normand, who is the East Jefferson General Hospital board chairman.
Reportedly, there are a dozen criteria that are important to the decision.
"It's probably the most important decision that this council has made, as it relates to health care, so it's a matter of people feeling comfortable with the position they take," said Jefferson Parish Council Chairman Chris Roberts.
Tuesday was the first time the two hospital boards had gotten together to talk about what were the most important criteria.
"You know what I like the most about it, is that all of the members have passion. They're very passionate about the respect of hospitals. They're very passionate about the future of Jefferson Parish. And when you have a lot of passion pent up in one room, you're going to have some, I wouldn't say disagreements, but differences of opinion. But I think that's healthy," said Normand.
"It was the intent of the council, that if a consensus had been reached, then we would have acted on that recommendation today," said Roberts. "They did not come with a recommendation yet. They asked for more time and that's what we're giving them."
There are still a lot of legal and antitrust scenarios to vet.
"I understand the public's concerns, but this is unlike everything else that government does. Government is typically not in business competition. But when it comes to hospitals we are," said Normand.
It could take another three weeks before the hospital boards complete the review or due diligence of the three plans, then they will make a recommendation to the council in executive session. The council will then take a vote. After a partner is chosen, it could take another several months before an actual plan is designed and implemented.
HCA, the only for-profit company competing to run the hospitals, would have to pay taxes, but only on any new equipment and improvements to the hospitals.
The other two groups, LCMC and Ochsner are non-profit and would not generate tax revenue.