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New arena at Will Rogers takes shape


The proposed Will Rogers Memorial Center arena continues to take shape as voters head for a Nov. 4 election to decide whether to approve new taxes to help pay for the $450 million facility.

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Ex Rangers manager Washington apologizes for 'breaking wife's trust'

IRVING, Texas (AP) — Former Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington says he is embarrassed for 'breaking his wife's trust.'

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Cooking Class: Fort Worth chef brings home the gold

Toques off to Timothy Prefontaine. The executive chef at the iconic Fort Worth Club is currently the best in the nation, according to the American Culinary Federation. Prefontaine earned the title of 2014 U.S.A.’s Chef of the

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Fort Worth firm 'simplifies' advertising

Reaching customers requires more than price slashing and flashy ads. In today’s competitive marketplace, machines – not men and women – are essential to tapping new markets and

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Trinity Valley School leader to leave in May 2015

Gary Krahn, head of school for the past eight years at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth, will leave his position in May 2015 when he and his wife Paula will move

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Louisiana leaders upset as Texas firm wins telemedicine bid

 

MELINDA DESLATTE,Associated Press


BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana's corrections department is contracting with a Texas company for telemedicine services for prisoners, rather than continuing to use the LSU health system for such care, lawmakers were told Friday.

The change is set to take effect with the new fiscal year that begins July 1. It's part of Gov. Bobby Jindal's push to privatize the university-run hospitals and clinics, which includes reworking the way prisoners receive health services that have been provided through LSU.

Telemedicine lets doctors give remote checkups through a video hookup and other electronic communications. That can shrink the costs of prisoner transportation and lower safety risks.

The Department of Corrections has increased its use of telemedicine in recent years to cope with budget cuts.

Louisiana lawmakers reviewing LSU hospital privatization deals Friday said they were displeased that the state would contract with an out-of-state company rather than use its own university system for the services.

"How could you not pick our medical school to provide the service?" asked Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, a member of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget.

Thomas Bickham, undersecretary of the Department of Corrections, said US Telehealth put in a lower bid than the LSU Health Care Services Division for the work.

According to information provided by the department, LSU proposed doing the work for $2.9 million a year, compared to $1.7 million for US Telehealth, which was the cheapest of the five bids submitted to the state.

Three companies offered bids lower than LSU did, and the corrections department said the university system's proposal didn't include services for north and central Louisiana prisons.

"This was a competitive process," Bickham said.

As part of the Jindal administration's hospital privatization efforts, the corrections department will receive $50 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year to cover the costs of prisoner care, which had previously been paid through the LSU health care system.

"We've been given $50 million, and we're trying to act responsibly with it," Bickham said. "And if we can get the same level of service — if not more service — for a better price, I think it's our responsibility to do that."

The Department of Corrections said the contract with US Telehealth was being negotiated for one year, with an option to renew annually for up to three years.

Some lawmakers expressed concern about the shift.

"Are we completely abandoning our medical school?" asked Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, saying he heard that other prisoner care contracts with LSU would be abandoned, as well.

Murray said the corrections department should have returned to LSU to determine if the university system could match the price offered by US Telehealth. He said the loss of the contract will shrink funding for the medical schools, which he said likely will either ask lawmakers for more money to fill the gap or seek tuition increases on its students.

"Does this company have to at least use Louisiana doctors?" Murray asked.

Bickham replied that at least half of the firm's doctors were based in Louisiana, while the remaining physicians would be from Texas. Raman Singh, medical director for the corrections department, said the Texas-based doctors will have to get licensed in Louisiana.

Jindal, a Republican, wants to privatize operations for nine of the 10 LSU hospitals that care for the uninsured. One hospital privatization has been complete, with four others are set to take effect Monday. Lawmakers have little authority over the contracts.

Other concerns raised Friday involved women's health service limitations planned for LSU's hospital in Bogalusa, in rural Washington Parish, which will be taken over Jan. 6 by the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System.

Sen. Sherri Buffington, R-Keithville, and Rep. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport, said they were concerned that women won't have access to services that will be discontinued because of the private operator's affiliation with the Catholic Church.

 

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What do you think of the new plans for a new Will Rogers arena and changes at the Convention Center?