BRF hopes to partner with Ochsner to strengthen operations

MONROE/SHREVEPORT (The News-Star) - According to our partners at The News-Star, BRF is seeking to partner with Ochsner Health System to strengthen and perhaps preserve its position as operator of Louisiana's safety net hospitals in Monroe and Shreveport.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has considered seeking the removal of BRF as the state's partner, facilitated a meeting with BRF, Ochsner and the state Tuesday in Baton Rouge.

"We want to stabilize and strengthen the two hospitals and the (LSU medical school in Shreveport)," Edwards told the USA Today Network Wednesday. "We're committed to doing that and we're going to make that happen. I have no doubt."

Edwards met with about 15 northern Louisiana lawmakers Wednesday in Monroe in the CenturyLink boardroom to update them on negotiations with BRF.

BRF, which is headquartered in Shreveport, operates University Health in Shreveport and University Health Conway in Monroe. Ochsner Health is a large and well-regarded hospital company based in New Orleans.

"We did have preliminary high-level discussions with Ochsner about how we can better collectively advance health care, medical education and research for the entire northern Louisiana community," said University Health Chairman Steve Skrivanos.

Ochsner's top executive said he looks "forward to further discussions."

"In our effort to continually advance wellness and health, Ochsner regularly evaluates partnerships and collaborations in order to improve patient outcomes, lower costs for patients and provide better access to healthcare within our community," Ochsner president and chief executive Warner Thomas said in a statement.

"Ochsner has tremendous respect for the work the state is doing to maintain access to care and appreciate the confidence the governor and BRF have in us," Warner said. "We look forward to further discussions."

BRF and the state have been unable to reach an agreement on a new contract, prompting Edwards to consider filing a breach-of-contract notice with BRF.

LSU, which operates the medical school in Shreveport within the University Health hospital, and BRF have been at odds since BRF took over the hospitals in 2013 after then Gov. Bobby Jindal privatized the charity hospital system.

LSU tried to oust BRF in 2015, but a judge ruled in favor of the hospitals' operator.

Edwards said he believes a partner like Ochsner could strengthen BRF's financial position, which is a concern of the state, and could be a stabilizing influence between BRF and LSU.


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