Hospital district hires more attorneys

St. Mary Hospital Service District 2 hired three attorneys Wednesday to help develop the lease under which board members hope Ochsner Health System will soon operate Teche Regional Medical Center.
A resolution, passed unanimously by the district’s board of commissioners, assigned Bill Bourgeois of Morgan City to the task. The board appointed Bourgeois to be its legal counsel at a special meeting last week to replace Nicholas LaRocca.
LaRocca resigned last month, citing differences with the board over how the transition to new hospital management is being handled.
Wednesday’s resolution also hired Jack M. Stolier and Matthew Brown, both of the Sullivan Stolier Schulze & Grubb law firm of New Orleans, to help draft a proposed lease with Ochsner.
Bourgeois is a member of Bourgeois Law LLC of Morgan City. His specialties are government and regulatory affairs and health care law.
Stolier is a founding member of his law firm and has a background in public interest law as well as health care. Brown “represents physicians, hospitals, and other health care organizations and businesses, including governmental entities and nonprofits,” according to the Sullivan Stolier website.
The district’s board is working to replace LifePoint Health as the operator of Teche Regional in Morgan City.
LifePoint has managed the hospital’s operations since 2005 under a 40-year lease with the district. Since LifePoint announced its decision to give up its Louisiana operations earlier this year, the district has been negotiating both the termination of the LifePoint lease and the search for a successor to keep the hospital in operation.
LifePoint and the district announced a preliminary agreement for a Dec. 31 LifePoint departure. At one point this fall, the district was threatening to take LifePoint to court if the Nashville-based company didn’t agree to stay at Teche Regional until another management company could be put in place.
But on Wednesday, board Chairman Heath Hoffpauir said the district, LifePoint and Ochsner have a good relationship.
“We have progress moving forward,” Hoffpauir said. “Everything is moving in the right direction.”
Questions for the audience at Wednesday’s meeting centered on why the new lawyers are being hired so late in the negotiation process.
“These guys didn’t need to get on board until we got to this point,” Hoffpauir replied.
Rural hospitals are widely reported to be battered by economics and other factors, including the level of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements; the attraction of big-city practices for young physicians saddled with student loan debt; and personnel shortages in key areas such as nursing.
Also Wednesday, the board agreed to advertise for a records custodian. State law requires governmental entities to designate someone to fill that role. Bourgeois will assume the duty until the job can be filled.

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