Our Lady of the Lake, Baton Rouge General Medical Center and Ochsner Health System responded Thursday to an expected resolution from the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council that would encourage hospital officials to create a transfer agreement with a potential emergency room in north Baton Rouge.
All hospital leaders say they are unfamiliar with the plan, and Our Lady of the Lake and Baton Rouge General specified that the potential emergency room’s leadership has not approached them about such an agreement. The three hospitals stood by their current services, with Baton Rouge General saying it has no plans to change its course, Our Lady of the Lake emphasizing its north Baton Rouge clinic and Ochsner saying it has worked with the other hospitals to respond to emergency needs.
The emergency room would be at the specialty surgical hospital Champion Medical Center in Howell Place, near Baton Rouge Metro Airport. Executives have said they could quickly build an emergency room there but, before opening it, likely would need millions of dollars in subsidies from the city or state and transfer agreements with local hospitals.
Proponents of the freestanding ER have argued that the lack of emergency care in north Baton Rouge leaves residents there vulnerable and said the proposed medical facility is in an ideal location.
The Metro Council is expected to vote next week on a resolution to encourage hospitals to sign agreements to accept Champion patients who need further treatment beyond initial emergency care. The resolution would be nonbinding.
“Champion has not yet discussed their proposal with us, though it is likely they are working with one of the state- funded safety net hospitals on a transfer arrangement,” Baton Rouge General President and CEO Mark Slyter wrote in a statement. “Baton Rouge General cares for hundreds of thousands of patients each year, and has created a sustainable path forward to meet our community’s most vital needs. We have no plans to change course.”
Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center is Baton Rouge’s “safety net” hospital, as it receives money from the state to care for patients who are poor. But Our Lady of the Lake officials also have not discussed a transfer agreement.
“Our Lady of the Lake has not been approached by Champion Medical,” reads a statement from the hospital. “Our Lady of the Lake currently provides access to care in the northern part of the parish at the LSU Health Baton Rouge Clinic on Airline, which includes primary care, imaging, pediatrics, oncology infusion and in addition an urgent care clinic that is open 24 hours. More than 6,000 patients receive care in this location each month.”
Our Lady of the Lake received the contract to become the safety net hospital after the state privatized its public hospital system, which previously cared for the poor.
Baton Rouge’s public hospital, Earl K. Long, closed in 2013.
Slyter and Our Lady of the Lake executives have said in the past that north Baton Rouge has adequate emergency care with the existing ERs in the parish and that opening an emergency room there is financially impossible.
Baton Rouge General closed its Mid City emergency room on Florida Boulevard in 2015 after the hospital campus was losing $23.8 million because of the high numbers of uninsured patients going there for treatment. Its Mid City campus now houses less acute care services, while critical and emergency room patients are treated at Baton Rouge General’s Bluebonnet Boulevard campus.
Baton Rouge General has also recently announced plans to partner with Ochsner Health System.
“Ochsner Health System is not familiar with the details of the Metro Council’s proposal,” reads the statement from its CEO, Eric McMillen. “Over the past year, our leadership team has worked collaboratively with other area hospital leadership teams and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to respond to the changes in Greater Baton Rouge.
“All parties have worked together to ensure that there are adequate systems in place to respond to the area’s true emergency care needs. We will continue to provide high quality care to those who need it.”
The transfer agreement topic came up Wednesday at a city-parish zoning meeting. Members of the #NBRNOW Blue Ribbon Commission — who are pushing for the emergency room at Champion — said they will ask the Metro Council next Wednesday to consider a resolution encouraging the transfer agreements.
Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel said the resolution would “send a message” that parish leaders want hospital leaders to work with Champion.
Neither state nor local government officials have said they would pay the expected $6 million to $6.5 million to build the emergency room space or the $3 million to $3.5 million subsidy to annually operate it.