OLOL weighs in on Mary Bird Perkins’ deal with BRG

What will Friday’s announcement that Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center and one of the largest oncology practices in Baton Rouge are partnering with Baton Rouge General’s Pennington Cancer Center to expand services to the BRG Bluebonnet campus mean for Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center?

Currently, the 50-year-old MBPCC and the oncology group, Louisiana Hematology and Oncology Associates, have long-standing affiliation agreements with OLOL.

But those deals end Dec. 30, when MBPCC joins with an independent, out-of-state group and LHOA signs an exclusive affiliation agreement with MBPCC.

OLOL still has another major hematology and oncology group— Our Lady of the Lake Physicians Group Medical Oncology—which is actually owned by OLOL, not just affiliated with it.

But that group, comprising seven physicians, leases space for infusions and other services from MBPCC, which is located in its own separate building on the OLOL main campus on Essen Lane.

It is unclear how the new partnerships will change all that.

In a statement Friday, OLOL CEO Scott Wester says OLOL’s cancer programs and treatments rival such “peer organizations as Vanderbilt, the University of Alabama-Birmingham and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.”

He goes on to say that OLOL’s focus remains on “providing our patients exceptional care in their fight against cancer through our world-class physician expertise.”

He suggests the program will continue to expand and that “the hospital is exploring partnerships with other like-minded organizations,” adding that “we also have an exciting announcement on the horizon.”

The local medical community is abuzz with speculation that the announcement on the horizon might be an acquisition by OLOL of a new facility or the renovation of space within the hospital to develop a cancer center that would compete directly with MBPCC, its longtime partner.

Such a facility would also compete with BRG’s Pennington Cancer Center as well as with Ochsner, which has been taking a larger slice of the cancer care market share since opening its medical complex at The Grove off Bluebonnet Boulevard in 2019.

For now, OLOL will not elaborate on its plans. But some question whether the market is best served by more competition at a time when health care costs are escalating.

Others say it’s important among all the jockeying for market share that providers stay focused on patient care above all else.

“We have to make sure we don’t lose the patients’ interest in all this shuffling around,” says Dr. Everett Bonner, a cancer surgeon, whose practice is based at Baton Rouge Clinic and is not involved in any of the MBPCC-OLOL-BRG deals. “We have to stay patient focused. At the end of the day that’s what’s important.”