Lipsey threatens to pull support of OLOL over its battle with Mary Bird Perkins

Editor’s note: This story has been updated since its original publication with additional information from OLOL.

One day after the chairman of the Our Lady of the Lake Foundation resigned from the hospital fundraising board amid the escalating feud between OLOL and the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, blasting hospital leadership as “morally bankrupt,” prominent businessman and OLOL donor Richard Lipsey is also taking aim at the institution.

Lipsey, who estimates he and his family have given “several hundreds of thousands of dollars” to OLOL over the years, wrote in a letter to the OLOL board Wednesday night that, “Our family will no longer support THE FUTURE needs of OLOL unless drastic changes in their culture and leadership are made.”

Lipsey’s letter specifically calls out the Catholic nuns, whose Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System runs the hospital.

“The Mother Superior Board of the Franciscan ministries has overstepped their boundary and common sense. They have now caused irreparable harm to their hospital and our community.”

The scathing letter, coming on the heels of former OLOL Foundation Board Chair Tom Adamek’s resignation letter, has consumed the Baton Rouge health care community and those close to the board members of both institutions.

“My phone and email have been blowing up,” Lipsey says.

The feud centers on failed negotiations between OLOL and MBPCC over the renewal of their nearly decade-old affiliation agreement. Talks went south earlier this year, after MBPCC rejected OLOL’s attempts to take over the independent cancer center as part of a growth plan.

MBPCC has since announced it will affiliate with a private-equity-backed national network of cancer care providers, OneOncology. OLOL followed with an announcement Monday that it will build a $100 million cancer center of its own.

Given that OLOL spent years raising $30 million for a much-needed Children’s Hospital, Lipsey and others questioned how it will raise $100 million for a cancer center opponents say is not needed. However, OLOL officials say the hospital plans to pay for the new center from its own budget and won’t need to fundraise. 

Lipsey, who has close ties to both institutions—his mother helped found MBPCC—says he is planning to bring together members of both boards next week in hopes of mending fences.

Also next week, MBPCC is expected to finalize its deal with OneOncology.

Sources familiar with the situation say there is little chance the OneOncology deal would fall through. But there are ways MBPCC and OLOL could peacefully coexist and share revenues on certain services—agreements, which, if amicably resolved, would be preferable to the rift that currently exists.

National health care finance expert Nate Kaufmann, who has done consulting work in Baton Rouge, says it’s “fascinating to see that little market get so fragmented.”

By the same token, less extreme versions of the same battle are playing out around the country.

“These are challenging times for health care providers,” says the San Diego-based Kaufman. “It would be nice if everyone got alone but there is a shrinking dollar so everybody wants a piece of it.”