METAIRIE, La. - Hospital managers say the long term viability of East and West Jefferson depends on their ability to partner up with a larger, private medical group.
This week, three suitors; Ochsner, HCA and Children's addressed groups of doctors, staff and board members from the two public hospitals.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand is also chairman of the East Jefferson Hospital Board of Directors.
"I think all three suitors did a really good job of putting their best foot forward and presenting their case," said Normand. "The three systems put on a presentation about their view of future clinical integration, physician alignment and issues along those lines."
So far, much of the process of picking a private hospital operator has been done behind closed doors.
The hospitals claim since the matter involves "strategic planning" the process is exempt from the state's Open Meetings Law.
Normand says there are also federal trade regulations.
"(It's a) very complex and a slippery slope of what you can say, how you can say it, when you can say it, what you can share so that you don't violate anti-trust."
Normand says there will be safeguards to make sure the private operator maintains the public nature of the hospitals.
"There is a whole host of issues and a laundry list of items that we have already developed that will be covenants to agreements to make sure and ensure that we stay very much the same."
East Jefferson Board Member Grady Hurley resigned this week, citing a potential conflict. He's a partner with the Jones Walker Law Firm which has represented Ochsner in the past. "It's a shame, but I understand what his concerns are and I think it's a testament to his integrity and his belief in preserving the community interest," said Normand.
The hospital boards for both East and West Jefferson are expected to take the next several months to review the various proposals for a private operator. A final deal is not expected to be reached until the first quarter of 2014 at the earliest.
The Jefferson Parish Council will have the final vote on who will manage the public hospitals.