University Health campus in Shreveport.

Louisiana State University and Ochsner Health Systems have agreed to form a new board to oversee operations at the safety-net hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe.

Officials from LSU, Ochsner, LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport and the Biomedical Research Foundation (BRF) signed letters of intent to create the new private-public partnership Tuesday. Under the agreement, Ochsner will manage both University Health hospitals and the clinical activity of LSU’s Faculty Group Practice. LSU will continue to oversee the LSUHSC-S School of Medicine, School of Allied Health and School of Graduate Studies.

“We look forward to working with the Ochsner Health System, and I personally see great opportunities on the horizon,” Dr. G.E. Ghali, chancellor of LSU Health Shreveport said during a news conference to announce the agreement.

Jay Dardenne, commissioner of the Department of Administration, spoke on behalf of Gov. John Bel Edwards.

“I think it’s more than just symbolic that you see so many members of the north Louisiana delegation here standing with us as we make this moments announcement,” Dardenne said. “I think it is representative of the same spirit that brought all of us together today in a day that is really a watershed day for the delivery of healthcare in north Louisiana.”

Dardenne said that all parties have signed what he called “an agreement in principal and in concept.” He said the specifics of the deal will be worked out as it moved forward.

“Everybody has come to this day believing that this is going to be in the best interest of the hospital, in the best interest of healthcare delivery in Louisiana, and in the best interest of there people of Louisiana,” he said.

Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, credited Edwards with driving the negotiations to today’s conclusion. She also praised the state lawmakers and all parties involved for the cooperative effort to reach this agreement.

“Today is a marriage of two amazing groups,” Gee said. “LSU Shreveport and Ochsner. Ochsner is an amazing place. It’s focused on quality. They have a demonstrated commitment to excellence. So what better partner for this part of the state than Ochsner. It’s a wonderful day for this community.

“But also LSU Shreveport. Through the leadership of Dr. Ghali, David Lewis, many other clinicians have really been providing care for what is the most vulnerable part of this country.This region of our nation has some of the greatest challenges, and this hospital, this medical school, has a greater opportunity to improve health that just about any medical school or part of this country.”

Dr. F. King Alexander, president of the LSU system, said the agreement secured the medical’s commitment to the community, as well as it’s potential to recruit and train medical students.

“Working with Ochsner gives us a unique opportunity as we go forward to be more financially stable,” he said. “That gives us the opportunity to keep enhancing what we are doing and providing more educational opportunities and providing more medical graduates for this entire region.”

BRF has managed University Health for about five years. Under the new agreement, BRF will continue to have a role, albeit a smaller one, in operations. Steve Skrivanos, chair of the University Health board, said he was proud of what University Health has accomplished in that time.

“Healthcare delivery in this hospital has never been better than it is today,” he said. “A new strategic alliance with a healthcare partner like Ochsner could be the single greatest thing to elevate our Shreveport medical school and this campus to the highest point.”

Warner Thomas is the Chairman and CEO of Oschner Health System. Ochsner owns, manages, or is affiliated with 30 hospitals across Louisiana with more than 1,300 physicians, Thomas said. With nearly 19,000 employees, Ochsner is the largest private employer in the state.

“We are excited to be here today to lend our help and our expertise to this organization, to these communities. Ochsner has been involved in many partnerships over the years. We are a grower; we are not a shrinker. We focus on growing more services, better services, more employees and trying to help more people. Because, at the end of the day, we exist to change lives.”

State Sen. Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City) called the announcement a good step forward for medical education and care across north Louisiana.

“For medical education to work, it needs to have multiple partners,” Peacock said. “We welcome Oschner to Shreveport-Bossier and to north Louisiana and hope that they will work with all of our medical community to provide medical education and care to all the citizens of this great state.”

By Scott Anderson