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Dr. Bill Cefalu
—The Daily Review/Diane Miller Fears

Hospital board authorizes signing of lease with Ochsner

After more than a year of uncertainty surrounding the future of Teche Regional Medical Center, the hospital’s governing board has officially authorized the signing of an agreement for Ochsner Health System to operate the hospital.
On Wednesday, St. Mary Parish Hospital Service District No. 2 board members authorized Chairman Dr. Bill Cefalu to sign the negotiated lease agreement with Ochsner to operate Teche Regional Medical Center in Morgan City.
KQKI radio station live streamed the meeting on its Facebook page.
The board, which is responsible for finding a tenant to operate the 167-bed hospital, has said for several months that a deal was in the works. Ochsner operates 14 other medical facilities in Louisiana, according to its website.
LifePoint Health of Brentwood, Tennessee, has operated the hospital since taking over a 40-year lease with the district nearly 15 years ago. Last year, LifePoint announced that it was pulling out of its Louisiana operations.
Jack Stolier, special legal counsel for the board, said authorizing Cefalu to sign the agreement will allow officials to expedite the process to finalize the lease agreement and get all filings to the state Attorney General, which is reviewing the agreement.
Cefalu became board chairman in January to replace Heath Hoffpauir, who stayed on the board.
“Today is a huge day,” Hoffpauir said. “It’s kind of undersold. We should be celebrating, because this has been a long process that started last April.”
Cefalu also had another reason to celebrate Wednesday as it was his birthday. Once the board is able to publicly release the details of the lease, Cefalu said everyone will be pleased with it and that “we got the best deal we could.”
Ochsner CEO Warner Thomas said during a March 27 news conference that he was “100% confident” that the deal would be completed.
State Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, left the Legislature in Baton Rouge early Wednesday, so he could attend the hospital board meeting in Morgan City.
“Ochsner is a tough negotiator, but that signifies that they are such because they are a good business model. They are a good operator, and they practice good medicine,” Jones said.
Jones thanked Gov. John Bel Edwards, who attended the March 27 news conference in Morgan City, for helping expedite the process at the request of Jones and state Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin.
The deal is a good one and can last a long time.
“It’s so important for Morgan City and the area because the idea of a community being viable without a hospital is not thinkable,” Jones said.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Cefalu said now that he has the authority to sign the lease with Ochsner, the board will start focusing more energy on finalizing negotiations on a legal settlement with LifePoint.
In other business, the board approved a resolution supporting a proposed parish ordinance that would extend the hospital district’s boundaries back to its original boundaries going west up to the Calumet Cut.

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