As the Jefferson Parish Council nears a decision of which private company will operate East Jefferson General Hospital and West Jefferson Medical Center, the two leading competitors for the deal are picking apart each other’s proposal in hopes of gaining an advantage. The selection has been on hold for three months since the two hospital boards failed to agree on an operator: East Jefferson prefers Hospital Corp. of America, and West Jefferson endorses Louisiana Children’s Medical Center.
HCA and Children’s officials criticized each other’s proposals in interviews last week as Inspector General David McClintock finalized his report on the wayward lease process, which the Bureau of Governmental Research has said is in “total disarray.” Executives with two companies sought to cast doubt on the other’s offer, including employment guarantees and potential barriers to closing a deal.
McClintock said he expects to release his report at the end of this week. Parish Council Chairman Chris Roberts has been holding up the council’s vote until that report is made public.
But over the weekend, Roberts, an outspoken critic of HCA’s offer, said he also wants an outside auditor to validate financial data in all three proposals under consideration, including that of Ochsner Health System. Ochsner is considered a long shot for the lease because of federal antitrust concerns.
Roberts also said he hopes to schedule two public hearings, one on each side of the Mississippi River, before the council votes on the lease.
HCA’s counterattack to Roberts’ scrutiny includes raising antitrust concerns about Children’s proposal. Company officials questioned whether a Jefferson deal with Children’s might also be subject to lengthy federal review, effectively delaying execution of the lease by four to six months. HCA Vice President Billy Douglass said the Federal Trade Commission’s review of a Children’s deal would likely be more extensive, because the Children’s system would grow from three to five hospitals, effectively pairing with Ochsner as the two dominant systems in the New Orleans-area market.
A deal with HCA, on the other hand, would bring the Nashville, Tenn.-based firm ‘s market presence on par with Children’s and Ochsner, creating three major players, Douglass said. HCA currently operates Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans and Tulane-Lakeside Hospital in Metairie on the South Shore. It also runs Lakeview Regional Medical Center in Covington.