Riverside CEO speaks on clinic issue

Published 11:00 am Monday, February 2, 2015

Dear Editor:

After hearing the response from the public, Riverside Medical Center is making one final attempt to seek a formal, binding agreement with St. Tammany Parish Hospital regarding their operation of Family Medical Clinic. At the Riverside Medical Center Board meeting on Jan. 29 the Riverside Board of Commissioners approved a resolution expressing its desire for St. Tammany Parish Hospital to return to negotiations — specifically, to enact a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement in accordance with the provisions of LA R.S. 46:1077 and health care privacy laws.

For additional background on what has led Riverside Medical Center to these current circumstances, below is a time table of events outlining what has happened:

• July 7, 2014, members of Family Medical Clinic approached the Washington Parish Council to enact a 20-year resolution. This resolution was not approved by Riverside Medical Center.

• Aug. 25, 2014, a public meeting of the Washington Parish Council directed Riverside Medical Center and St. Tammany Parish Hospital to work on a mutually beneficial agreement. Mr. William Jones said this needed to be done expeditiously in a 30-day window.

• Board members of Riverside Medical Center and St. Tammany Parish Hospital met to discuss plans for an agreement on Sept. 12, 2014. Both parties felt positive about the meeting and recommended a follow up meeting with board members, administration and general counsel for additional discussion.

• Board members, general counsel and the CEOs of Riverside Medical Center and St. Tammany Parish Hospital met on Sept. 18, 2014. A verbal, mutually acceptable agreement was reached. After close of the meeting, the attorneys discussed who would draft the agreement. Mr. Jones took the responsibility of drafting but refused to make it a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement.

• Mr. Matthew Brown reached out to Mr. Jones on Oct. 2, 2014, to inquire as to the status of the agreement. Mr. Jones responded that he had just completed the most extensive agreement in St. Tammany Parish Hospital history and would turn full attention to drafting the Riverside Medical Center/St. Tammany Parish Hospital agreement.

• On Nov. 14, 2014, Riverside Medical Center received the St. Tammany Parish Hospital draft of the Memorandum of Understanding. It was an extensive 14-page document, mostly favorable to St. Tammany Parish Hospital, with requirements that had not previously been discussed. The document was reviewed at the Nov. 20, 2014, board meeting, and the attorney was given specific changes by the board, which he began to draft in the form of a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement, according to LA RS 46:1077.

• On Jan. 9, 2015, a revised draft was sent to St. Tammany Parish Hospital, which very simply outlined what had been agreed to at the Sept. 18 meeting. Subsequently, St. Tammany Parish Hospital officials accused Riverside Medical Center and the board of stalling.

• Jan. 13, 2015, the board of Riverside Medical Center received an ultimatum from St. Tammany Parish Hospital instructing Riverside Medical Center to sign the Memorandum of Understanding as presented by Jan. 23, 2015, at 3 p.m., or the negotiations would end, and St. Tammany Parish Hospital would cease operating Family Medical Clinic on or before Oct. 27, 2015.

• Jan. 19, 2015, the Riverside Medical Center board held an emergency meeting to discuss the ultimatum. The board passed a resolution requesting a meeting between the hospital boards resulting in a resolution and letter sent to St. Tammany Parish Hospital. The resolution and a letter were sent to St. Tammany Parish Hospital on Jan. 20, 2015.

• St. Tammany Parish Hospital denied the request for the board members to meet and demanded Riverside Medical Center furnish a detailed list of the issues by Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015 at 3 p.m.

• On Jan. 21, 2015, after being denied a meeting with St. Tammany Parish Hospital’s board, Riverside Medical Center responded with the following two issues, though were willing to accept other provisions: 1)Remove the reporting requirements imposed by St. Tammany Parish Hospital; and 2) revise the dispute resolution process to protect Riverside Medical Center and the residents of Washington Parish to state that if the Memorandum of Understanding is terminated, St. Tammany Parish Hospital would have 18 months to relocate.

• On Friday, Jan. 23, 2015, at 3:15 p.m., Riverside Medical Center received a response from St. Tammany Parish Hospital that they had revoked their offer after it had expired and was no longer subject to acceptance, though the St. Tammany Parish Hospital board would take into consideration Riverside Medical Center’s response and requested revisions at their Jan. 26 meeting but by no means was this to be considered a new offer or negotiations.

• On Jan. 27, 2015, Riverside Medical Center learned in an article published in the newspaper that St. Tammany Parish Hospital was announcing publically that Family Medical Clinic would cease operations in Franklinton, Louisiana, on or before Oct. 27, 2015, before receiving any prior direct notification from St. Tammany Parish Hospital. Furthermore, Riverside discovered in the minutes of the St. Tammany Parish Facilities meeting of Jan. 12, 2015, that St. Tammany Parish Hospital had authorized its representatives to immediately seek to find a new location for Family Medical Clinic, one day before St. Tammany Parish Hospital submitted the ultimatum to Riverside Medical Center on Jan. 13.

As you can see, the Riverside Medical Center Board of Commissioners and hospital administration have made repeated attempts to negotiate in good faith. However, Riverside is unable to approve a Memorandum of Understanding that requires reporting of patient information that would violate federal patient privacy laws. Further, according to state law a Memorandum of Understanding is not sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the law. Our desire is to enact a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement, in accordance with the provisions of LA R.S. 46:1077, that would allow the continued operation of Family Medical Clinic in Franklinton. If St. Tammany Parish Hospital would like to continue delivering world-class health care to their patients in Washington Parish, we sincerely welcome them to contact Riverside Medical Center by noon on Monday, Feb. 9, 2015, expressing its desire to enact a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement.

Both Riverside Medical Center and Family Medical Clinic are a vital part of health care delivery in this area. Riverside is excited about the growth of this hospital and health care delivery, with the expansion of existing services and addition of new services. These include the opening of the new Family Care Clinic, expanding the Riverside Pediatric and Internal Medicine Clinic, adding additional physicians and nurse practitioners, building a new cath lab, establishing an in-house pharmacy for its employees and staff and continuing to recruit other physicians, nurse practitioners and other specialists. We welcome Family Medical Clinic and St. Tammany Parish Hospital to be a part of this growth.

– Thank you,

E. Kyle Magee, M.D.


Riverside Medical Center