JEFFERSON PARISH, La. -- The hospital consultant hired to help select a private partner for Jefferson Parish's two public hospitals has recommended all three finalists according to West Jefferson Medical Center Chairman Chip Cahill.
He says at a meeting in early 2013, Kaufman Hall was asked which of the three qualified suitors would be the best partner for East Jeff and West Jeff and the consultant responded, "Ochsner."
Cahill claims on an Aug. 26 conference call, at some point after he stated that Kaufman Hall was hired to qualify suitors and not to select or recommend a particular candidate. The consultant, when asked by someone other than himself, who she would select if asked, she responded, "HCA.”
Cahill says when asked by Councilman Ben Zahn at the special meeting on Aug. 29 who was the best partner for East Jeff and West Jeff, the consultant responded that if it was up front money and access to capital markets the best choice was HCA. But if it were local control and being part of a local system, then the best choice was Childrens (LCMC).
Councilmembers including Zahn, Paul Johnson and Cynthia Lee-Sheng are pushing a resolution to compel Kaufman Hall to make a final pick.
"It's obvious that they have given a recommendation before," said Zahn. "I don't need to spend $1.3 million to find out that three suitors are all good. We need you to chose someone from that group."
"It's not binding," said Lee-Sheng. "We certainly don't have to vote the way her recommendation goes. But, it's information I personally really want to hear before I cast the most important vote that I'll ever cast as a councilwoman."
Council Chair Chris Roberts says there was an agreement not to discuss the hospital deal at the council's Oct. 2 meeting at Kenner City Hall.
But Roberts says he would support the resolution at the following meeting, on Oct. 16, if Kaufman Hall is ordered to testify.
"I think they need to come out in public," said Roberts. "They need to take questions from the council. They need to address some of their inconsistencies. They need to discuss openly whether or not they have been pushed in a certain direction."
There is growing support on the council to allow each hospital to pick its own operator. East Jefferson wants HCA and West Jeff wants Childrens.
"Everything should be on the table right now," said Lee-Sheng. "Clearly, both boards are looking to go in different directions."
"Obviously, they both feel more comfortable with two different suitors," said Zahn.
Roberts says Kaufman Hall has cautioned against splitting the 30-year contract. "They said it was not in the public's best interest. They made that very specific."
Roberts says regardless of the final outcome, he hopes the private hospital partner will be selected before the end of the year.