Council re-examines clinic agreement

Published 2:24 pm Wednesday, July 30, 2014

After well over two hours of emotional pleadings from approximately a dozen of Riverside Medical Center employees and supporters on Monday, the Washington Parish Council tabled a resolution that would have rescinded a July 7 resolution to keep Family Medical Clinic operating as part of St. Tammany Parish Hospital for the next 20 years.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 had almost 18,000 office visits last year.

Riverside Medical Center legal counsel John David Allen, Riverside C.E.O. Kyle Magee and Riverside Chairman of the Board Lionel Jones all asked the Council to reconsider their earlier decision by rescinding the resolution.

Councilman Greg Route made the motion to table the resolution and gave the parties 90 days to work out an agreement satisfactory to both sides. The motion was seconded.

“If either party can get together by the 90 days, we’ll act on it,” Route said.

“We’re hoping for a 90-day time frame, but nobody has the upper hand,” Council Chairman Michael Fussell said. “Hopefully the parties can come to an agreement.”

Fussell was asked what would happen should there be no agreement between the parties.

“The resolution will come back before the Council, and we’ll act accordingly,” Fussell said. “We’ll vote to rescind the resolution, or it will remain in affect.”

Council member Charles Nassauer said he wanted some questions answered.

“Before we can make an educated decision, we need to educate ourselves,” Nassauer said. “We want to do what is in the best interest of the parish.”

Allen cited a 2002 decision of the First Circuit Court of Appeals in his remarks.

“The First Circuit said neighboring hospitals can’t come in and poach,” Allen said. “In December 2002, it was necessary for Riverside to allow St. Tammany to operate within (Washington Parish) boundaries. St. Tammany can come in and take our business. I put it to this Council, you were not informed; you were misled. In 2002, Riverside was too poor to pay their doctors, but to see this hospital turn it around so quickly and do what it has in a year’s time is amazing. Riverside is not only a serviceable hospital, but it is one we can be proud of.”

Fussell told Allen the Board is in a ticklish situation.

“Our biggest concern is that we have been put in the middle between Family Medical Clinic and Riverside Medical Center,” Fussell said.

Magee broke down the numbers.

“Those 18,000 visits (produce) net revenue of $1.42 million generated in taxes to supplement Riverside,” Magee said. “It’s estimated $5-6 million leaves our parish and goes to St. Tammany Parish. This is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. We’re local Washington Parish people trying to make a living. Any negotiations need to be between St. Tammany and Riverside administrations. All we’re asking is that you rescind this. St. Tammany won’t come to the table.”

Jones said he was misinformed about the July 7 date when the resolution was voted on.

“We were told it was going to be brought up July 21,” Jones said. “Nowhere have we talked about 20 years. We have agreements to transfer patients. St. Tammany and Riverside (administrators) should have discussions, not their employees.”

Councilman Andre’ Johnson also said the board finds itself in an unenviable position.

“I wish Family Medical Clinic and Riverside could come to an agreement. As a Councilman, I feel like I’m in the middle and I’ve got to pick a side.”

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

In other business, the council adopted an ordinance that changed the voting precinct in Ward 8, Precinct 1 from the Washington Parish Fire District No. 3, 30247 Louisiana Highway 430, to the Washington Parish Fire District No. 3, located at 29468 Louisiana Highway 430. This was necessitated by the change of location of the fire house there.

Also, the Council reappointed Johnny Daniels to the District I Recreation Board.

The Council also heard from David Doss, U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s aide. Doss manages Vitter’s constituent service and told the Council he can assist citizens with their Social Security and Veterans Administration questions.