20-year deal for Family Medical

Published 4:23 pm Monday, July 14, 2014

A resolution approved Monday by the Washington Parish Council will keep Family Medical Clinic operating as part of St. Tammany Parish Hospital for the next 20 years.

The clinic, located in Franklinton on Riverside Drive, next to Riverside Medical Center, has 16 full-time employees and saw almost 18,000 office visits in 2013.

Attorney Richard Watts, speaking on behalf of the clinic’s physicians, Drs. Libeau J. Berthelot, Mark L. James, Christopher Foret and Caroline Battles, provided background information on the resolution.

He said the need for such a resolution comes from a 2002 decision of the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The court held that neighboring hospital service districts desiring to offer services in an area already being served by a hospital service district must have the permission of the governing body in the area where the services are to be provided, he said.

In 2003, the physicians of Family Medical Clinic came to the Parish Council for approval to enter into an agreement with St. Tammany Parish Hospital, and that permission was granted on a five-year basis.

Watts said the resolution was extended by the council in 2008, making 2015 the new end date.

He said the clinic is coming before the council a year earlier because the doctors’ contractual relationship with St. Tammany Parish Hospital will be up for renewal at the end of 2014.

The new agreement spelled out in the resolution authorizes Family Medical Clinic to enter into a 20-year agreement with St. Tammany Parish Hospital Service District No. 1, or St. Tammany Parish Hospital.

The agreement will allow the St. Tammany hospital to own and operate the Franklinton clinic for that time period and to employ physicians as it deems necessary.

Watts told the council prior to its vote that the resolution would give the physicians the opportunity to enter into a long-term employment relationship with the hospital, where their contract had to that point been dictated by the five-year permission term.

He said the proposition has the support of the Riverside Medical Center Board of Commissioners and hospital CEO Dr. Kyle Magee. Watts also presented council members with a letter of support from John Evans, chairman of the St. Tammany hospital’s Board of Commissioners.

In response to a question from Council Chairman Mike Fussell, Watts said some of the clinic’s doctors are anticipated to retire within the 20-year timeframe of the agreement. At that point, they would bring in new doctors, and there would be a transition process, he said.

“I don’t see this as anything but a win-win for the doctors and for the community to be able to continue on a long-term basis this integral part of the health care delivery system in this parish to the people,” he said.

In other business, the council approved a resolution that reduces the length of Jimmy Magee Road on the Department of Public Works inventory maintenance list from 1,584 feet to 1,284 feet.

Additionally, the council introduced an ordinance that would change the location of a polling place in Ward 8, Precinct 1 from its current site at Fire District 3’s old Hackley fire station.

The polling place would move to the new Hackley fire station located at 29468 Louisiana Highway 430 in Franklinton.

If the council approves the change, voters in the affected precinct will receive a letter from the Registrar of Voters office.

The ordinance will be up for public hearing and vote the next Parish Council meeting, to be held Monday, July 28, at 6 p.m. in the council chambers of the parish courthouse.