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Witness Testimony of Patrick J. Quinlan, M.D., Ochsner Health System, Chief Executive Officer, New Orleans, LA

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity to appear before the committee to update you on Ochsner Health System’s commitment to health care for our Veterans.  Your personal presence and concern are certainly appreciated by our citizens and our veterans.

Ochsner Health System is an independent non-profit organization made up of seven hospitals and thirty-two clinics employing over 9,000 people.  Ochsner is one of the largest private employers in Louisiana.  Ochsner Medical Center, located in Jefferson Parish, was one of only three hospitals to keep its doors open, despite the ongoing interruption of its business, during and after Katrina to care for all patients.

Currently, Ochsner employs over 600 physicians and more than 120 licensed mid-level health providers and is one of the largest, private, non-university based academic institutions in the country with over 350 residents and fellows, proven research including bench research, translational research and over 700 clinical trials.  In addition, we provide training for approximately 400 allied health students and over 700 medical students from LSU and Tulane with little funding to support this mission.  The importance of Ochsner’s graduate medical education program has increased greatly since Katrina because we are the only fully functional academic center in the greater New Orleans area.

As a Veteran myself and with a number of our employees as veterans, we are gravely concerned about the future of VA Health Care in South Louisiana.  Our veterans have waited far too long for the services of a new VA facility and it is time to make our veterans the number one priority in the decision making process, followed by the potential cost of such a project to the taxpayers of this country.

When the Department of Veterans Affairs issued a request for proposal for the location of a new medical facility, Ochsner Health System was pleased to submit a proposal to offer an alternative site to help keep the VA Medical Center in South Louisiana to better serve the health care needs of our Veterans.

As a part of our proposal, we commissioned an independent research study of 600 Veterans including 300 current and former VA patients and 300 potential VA patients living in eighteen parishes in South Louisiana to determine the optimal location for a new VA facility.  Overwhelmingly, 76% of veterans indicated they prefer a suburban Jefferson Parish location to one in downtown New Orleans.

We believe the Ochsner proposal offers a number of advantages that meet or exceed all the requirements of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs criteria.  The 28 acre site is owned free and clear by Ochsner in a great central location with easy access to major highways.  It is above sea level and not located in a flood plain.  Site preparation would be minimal.  The location next to Ochsner Medical Center allows for the ability to avoid service duplication, address and share infrastructure needs and provide key clinical services as needed.  Electronic connectivity is possible with Ochsner’s complete ambulatory electronic medical record system.  A coordinated Master Plan Development and construction could start immediately.  With our extensive network of clinics and hospitals, Ochsner could provide facilities and assistance to the VA immediately.  Most importantly, our Senior Management team and Board are committed to making this project their top priority.  The project can be completed sooner, and veterans can be assisted now offering a smoother transition to the VA’s new hospital.

With the Ochsner site located only fifteen minutes from downtown, we will continue to encourage partnerships with both LSU and Tulane to help train future physicians and allied health professionals at Ochsner Medical Center which is the market leader in both patient preference and market share.  The convenience of the Ochsner location to downtown would also provide the VA with ample opportunities to partner with the medical schools and support their training programs.

Economic development for the region is important.  One need only look to the Texas Medical Center comprised of more than 40 collaborative institutions that covers an area the size of the Chicago Loop for the synergy that multiple health related entities can bring to the region.  Ochsner’s proposed site is part of a larger 50 acre site that can accommodate the development of additional programs and facilities in conjunction with local medical schools, biomedical research entities, and other important partnership opportunities within the medical industry.  At the Ochsner site economic development can begin now, not years from now, helping the region recover sooner.

Finally, we have a personal commitment to Veterans.  We want to make sure the Veterans of this region are served to the best of our abilities.  The potential for shared service agreements and shared infrastructure to avoid duplication and save cost are possible using the resources of Ochsner’s complete array of clinical services and facilities.  What you will find working with Ochsner is the ability to execute the plan with no bureaucracy and swift decision-making.  We are ready to start tomorrow to help make a state of the art VA facility a reality for South Louisiana and beyond.  Thank you for your time and consideration.  I am happy to respond to any questions.