Local doctors take over at River West

Deidre Cruse

With approval of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, a group of local doctors moved to assume management of River West Medical Center last weekend, and are expected to finalize the purchase of the hospital property today (Thursday).

“This is a new beginning for the hospital,” said Bryan Bogle of Baton Rouge, former River West chief executive officer who is returning as CEO. “I think the community will start to see some real positive changes.”

River West is operating emergency room and inpatient services with about 100 employees, Bogle told the POST/SOUTH.

“The surgery is not open, but everything else is,” he said.

The hospital’s financial troubles became known earlier this year with employees complained of receiving bouncing checks from Shiloh Health Services Inc., which has been operating the hospital for nearly a year. Shiloh laid off a large portion of the River West staff, and entered bankruptcy reorganization this spring.

A group of local doctors headed by Dr. Luke Lee formed Westside Physicians LLC to buy the hospital property from a California company, and formed Iberville Health Services (IHS) to oversee the hospital’s management, according to a statement released Saturday.

IHS has hired Quality Health Solutions (QHS), a professional health care management company based in Lafayette, as consultants at River West.

“QHS is specialized in rural hospital turn-arounds and ongoing hospital management,” said Craig Ortego, who owns the company with his wife Sharie.

QHS in turn hired Bogle, who had worked as River West CEO under Shiloh before the company fired him in February.

Last month, Shiloh go a temporary restraining order against Bogle to preventing him from working with the doctors based on a “non-compete” clause in his Shiloh contract. The court did not approve an injunction against him, Bogle said, freeing him to return to the hospital under new management.

Orgega said IHS is taking over the hospital in three phases – assuming management, acquiring the hospital building and acquiring the hospital’s equipment and other assets.

Last Friday, the bankruptcy court approved interim financing by Iberville Health Services, he said.

“With cooperation of all parties, Iberville Health Services has begun phasing in its managerial control [of] the hospital, with a hearing scheduled before the Bankruptcy Court for approval of full managerial control on May 8,” Ortega said in his written statement. “On May 7, Westside Physicians LLC, also owned by local doctors, will acquire the hospital building, and on May 22, a hearing is scheduled for the bankruptcy court for approval of Iberville Health Services’ acquisition of equipment and other assets.

“Parties involved in the bankruptcy proceedings have indicated their support of the process, and court approval is anticipated.”