Message from the Board: Hospital Service District Lawsuit« Return
We thought it was important to inform the community of a lawsuit between St. James Parish Hospital (St. James Parish Hospital Service District 1) and Thibodaux Regional Health System and Lafourche Parish Hospital Service District 3.
The legal petition, approved unanimously by our Board of Commissioners, describes actions of Thibodaux Regional Health System that we believe were conducted in conflict with Hospital Service District laws put in place to protect access to healthcare and the positive impact of hospitals in local communities.
COLLABORATION IS KEY
Partnerships and collaborations have always been key to St. James Parish Hospital’s ability to serve. The hospital has historically partnered with other organizations and health systems, including Thibodaux Regional, to bring new services, physicians and clinics to our local residents. Services that complement each other strengthen the hospital while redundancy of key healthcare services in a rural community can stunt growth, pause future investment and potentially lead small hospitals to close. Hospital closures in rural communities, like St. James Parish, can have devastating effects on families and economies. As the only health system in the parish, St. James Parish Hospital, federally designated as a critical access hospital, is a vital provider and employer for the St. James Parish community.
St. James Parish Hospital executives approached Thibodaux Regional Health System leaders on multiple occasions to propose a partnership in relation to specialty care and diagnostic services in Vacherie. Rather than partnering, Thibodaux Regional Hospital disregarded Hospital Service District laws with the opening of Thibodaux Regional Cardiology Clinic within the boundaries of St. James Parish, and without the consent of St. James Parish Hospital, as required by law. To protect hospitals in small communities like St. James Parish, Hospital Service District laws require consent before one Hospital Service District can expand to another hospital service district. Further information we have learned also leads us to believe that additional strategies for future expansion of Thibodaux Regional Health System in St. James Parish are in place that could put the future of our only local hospital at risk.
We respect the right of patients to choose their health care provider. Patients can always voluntarily choose to travel to access care in other areas. However, Louisiana law prohibits Hospital Service Districts from operating medical services outside of their district without consent. The law prohibiting this duplication of services was created to help ensure the development and growth of hospitals in different geographic locations regardless of their size. The law helps to prevent larger hospital service districts from “cannibalizing” smaller hospital service districts to the point of putting smaller hospitals out of business at the detriment of the community it was intended by law to serve. By ensuring access to health care, communities are strengthened.
COMMITMENT TO THE COMMUNITY
We have witnessed St. James Parish Hospital’s commitment to our community since opening its doors in 1955. In the last 15 years alone, the hospital has invested in staff, physicians, technology and infrastructure to meet the growing needs of residents.
In 2008, the hospital opened a new, state-of-the-art facility. In 2012, a Progressive Care Unit was built with the layout and technology needed to care for sicker patients close to home and David Reynaud Medical Plaza was opened to house primary care physicians as well as attract specialists to the area. In 2015, the hospital opened St. James West Bank Clinic in Vacherie to expand primary care services to residents on the west bank of the parish. In 2019, St. James Parish Hospital purchased land in Vacherie to invest in future services on the west bank. In 2021, the hospital expanded its Medical Plaza to offer a dedicated space and additional hours for St. James Urgent Care, a new outpatient therapy center and added on-site lab and x-ray services to make care more convenient for patients. In 2023, the hospital welcomed a new surgeon and announced a partnership with Baton Rouge Cardiology Center which expanded both inpatient and outpatient cardiology services in St. James Parish.
This year, the hospital will break ground on the new St. James West Bank Clinic in Vacherie in order to offer patients an upgraded facility, diagnostic services and additional space to grow. To date, residents of our parish have access to primary care on both sides of the river as well as a growing number of satellite clinics which offer specialty services locally.
OUR RESPONSIBILITY AS A BOARD
As St. James Parish Hospital Board Members, our obligation to you, the citizens of St. James Parish, is to ensure that our local health care system, the only hospital in our parish, remains viable as a quality healthcare provider and key employer in our community.
We believe that the mission of nonprofit hospitals, such as Thibodaux Regional, should not be to violate the laws designed to preserve community hospitals while benefiting itself at the expense of its neighbors. With this, we ask that Thibodaux Regional Health System cease its unlawful activities in St. James Parish, so as not to endanger our rural, critical access hospital.
-St. James Parish Hospital Board of Commissioners: Wilbur Reynaud, Chairman; Wayne Waguespack; Leslie Loup; Dr. Randall Poche; Roxanne Jackson Childs
“In rural communities across America, hospitals and health systems are cornerstones for the health and well-being of the patients and communities they serve. Rural hospitals and health systems provide much needed access to affordable, quality health care for patients close to home, and operate as economic anchors in their local communities, supporting good paying jobs and infusing the local economy with spending on goods and services. In 2020, rural hospitals supported one in every 12 rural jobs in the U.S. as well as $220 billion in economic activity in rural communities.”
– American Hospital Association: Rural Hospital Closures Threaten Access