Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
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METAIRIE, La. - One of the finalists for a 30-year contract to lease and operate Jefferson Parish's two public hospitals is blasting Jefferson Parish Council Chairman Chris Roberts.

HCA MidAmerica Division President Mel Lagarde sent Roberts a letter expressing concern over recent public statements he made about the private hospital management firm.

'You have disseminated news articles to members of the Jefferson Parish Council and Jefferson Parish Hospital Service Districts regarding HCA litigation in an effort to discredit our organization and our proposal to lease the Jefferson Parish public hospitals,' Lagarde wrote.'

Lagarde also stated, 'We are also aware that you directed members of the Jefferson Parish Council and Hospital Service Districts to a 10-year-old news release regarding a 17-year-old Department of Justice case. None of HCA's current leadership were at the helm of our corporation at the time.'

Lagarde also accused Roberts of leaking HCA's confidential Letter of Intent to the news media.

'The matter in which you've attacked our corporate integrity, endeavored to undermine the bid process by leaking our Letter of Intent, and refused to consider our hospital proposal objectively is appalling.'

Roberts shot back with an email to Lagarde.

'As it relates to the 'leaked' LOI, this matter involved a requested correction to the document from the council as a result of the discovery of a prohibited purchase option in HCA's proposal,' Roberts wrote. 'To be clear there was no leak. Many media outlets were reporting the purchase option may have ended any consideration of HCA. The attachment forwarded to the media was done so to provide clarification to every media outlet that reported HCA's proposal included a purchase option.'

Roberts also stated, 'I would consider your letter as an attempt to silence concerns raised by professionals and residents that have contacted my office, I have forwarded a copy to the District Attorney for his review.' Roberts has said he supports the wishes of the West Jefferson Medical Center Board which wants Louisiana Children's Medical Center to run the hospital. Roberts also opposes efforts to split the contract.

The East Jefferson Hospital Board wants to partner with HCA.

Lagarde also stated that he was 'troubled' that Roberts refused to meet with HCA to address his concerns.

'We extended this offer to all members of the Jefferson Parish Council, and five of the seven agreed to meet with us.'

'I appreciate your past invitation to meet,' said Roberts. 'During the review process, I purposely avoided one on one contact with any suitor under consideration. I would prefer that my questions and concerns be vetted publicly.'

Roberts said he would like the council to vote on a private hospital partner after the JP Inspector General issues a final report on the matter early next month.

West Jefferson Medical Center board passed a resolution Monday night stating that from the start it was never the intent to split the hospitals. When this process got underway, the board members supported both changes in state law and a parish ordinance, it was done so based on both hospitals moving forward as one.

That fact being considered, the board members believe a public referendum should be called if a split of the hospitals is even remotely considered.

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