In just a few days, the people of Jefferson Parish could learn who will take over the management of West Jefferson and East Jefferson hospitals.
The move is an effort to keep the hospitals viable during the changing way hospitals will get reimbursed by private and government insurance.
The long road to a decision on who will run East Jefferson General Hospital and West Jefferson Medical Center is about to end. Tuesday, the boards of both hospitals will meet to pick either Ochsner or Children's Hospital, both non-profits, or one of the nation's largest healthcare companies, HCA, Hospital Corporation of America in Nashville, a for profit company.
But before that happens, several doctors and top hospital administrators will make an all day trip to Austin, Texas, to visit another HCA hospital, St. David's.
"So in trying to do their due diligence and get a broad perspective as they compare and contrast, they asked to go see St. David's, which is similar in size and scale to both East and West Jefferson," said Dr. Mark Peters, president and CEO of East Jefferson General Hospital.
HCA runs Tulane, but hospital officials say that is an academic or teaching hospital, and they want to see how HCA runs a community hospital similar in size.
"I think it can be a little bit different for the physicians, administration, the relationship between the two, medical staff structures, things like that can be different," Dr. Peters said, referring to how a teaching hospital is run compared to a community hospital.
Spokespeople for both East and West Jefferson say that the people going to Austin are flying commercial, and the hospitals are paying their own way so there is no conflict of interest.
Dr. Peters also says doctors in leadership positions are already familiar with how Ochsner and Children's are operated, so there is no need to go on site visits to those facilities. He also says the trip to Austin doesn't mean HCA is the front runner.
"I think it's just the added piece of getting one more piece of information of all the voluminous information that's out there, and making this tough decision," he added.
HCA also runs Lakeview Regional Medical Center in Covington, but that is much smaller than Jefferson's community hospitals and administrators didn't think that would be a comparable example to visit.
If the boards come to a decision on Tuesday, the Jefferson Parish Council will have the final approval at Wednesday's council meeting.