Our Lady of the Lake's north Baton Rouge emergency room should be treating patients ranging from car wreck victims to those suffering asthma attacks by October, finally restoring emergency healthcare later this year to north Baton Rouge.

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020117 Our Lady Of Lake ER

While ambulances are usually routed to Our Lady of the Lake's trauma center on Essen Lane for patients with the most severe gunshot wounds, heart attacks, strokes and more, the hospital's physicians said Tuesday that the north Baton Rouge emergency room will be able to take care of those kinds of patients as well.

Our Lady of the Lake's Associate Medical Director of Emergency Services Shammi Kataria described the 8,000 square foot addition to the LSU Health North Baton Rouge Clinic on Airline Highway as a "fully functioning ER capable of taking care of any trauma."

As is the case with Our Lady of the Lake's Livingston emergency room, especially critical patients in need of longer term recovery can be stabilized in north Baton Rouge and later transferred to the Essen Lane campus.

"Time is muscle," Kataria said. "Every muscle cell you can save helps prevent future complications."

Kataria was one of more than 150 doctors, nurses, political leaders, business associates and others who cheered at Tuesday's groundbreaking ceremony for the emergency room. North Baton Rouge residents and politicians have pushed for the return of emergency healthcare on their side of town since the 2013 closure of LSU's Earl K. Long Medical Center and the 2015 closure of Baton Rouge General's Mid City emergency room.

"The memory of Earl K. Long is strong in this community, and the need weighing on its people as has grown as other access points have continued to shrink in recent years," said Our Lady of the Lake CEO Scott Wester. "But today is not about the loss in the community, today is to celebrate services restored."

Six years ago, Our Lady of the Lake broke ground on the state's first freestanding emergency room in Livingston. Wester and Kataria expect that the north Baton Rouge emergency room will be even busier than the Livingston facility.

While Livingston's campus has around 35,000 annual visits, Wester said the LSU Health North Baton Rouge urgent care that they are expanding already receives 44,000 annual visits. He expects the number to jump past 50,000 annual visits once the facility is expanded, with 11,000 of those visits being just to the emergency room.

The north Baton Rouge eight-room emergency department will be able to adjust to up to 11 treatment spaces if needed, and it will include CT scan, X-Ray, lab and pharmacy capabilities. The healthcare leaders said they are particularly interested in watching how the collaboration works between an emergency room and urgent care center both open around the clock in one facility.

Emergency room overuse has been one of the healthcare community's biggest concerns in recent years, Baton Rouge General has said that four out of five of their Mid City emergency room patients would have been more appropriately treated in urgent or primary care.

Federal law forbids hospitals from turning away anyone who shows up at an emergency room without stabilizing and treating them, regardless of a patient's ability to pay for treatment. But Kataria said that after screening patients in the emergency room, he expects doctors should be able to refer the patients to the neighboring urgent care facility for future treatment.

Wester said doctors will be able to educate patients about which avenue of care is best for them in the future after treating them in the emergency room. While the urgent care center is staffed with physicians from Lake After Hours, doctors and possibly residents from Our Lady of the Lake's emergency department will staff the north Baton Rouge emergency room.

The groundbreaking ceremony stayed true to Our Lady of the Lake's religious mission, with Sister Helen Cahill of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady — who run the hospital — praying that the emergency room would be "a beacon of hope."

Gov. John Bel Edwards said he and Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome talked about the need for healthcare in north Baton Rouge long before Broome was elected as mayor-president. After hearing from people in the community and the legislative delegation, Edwards said, he charged Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, Secretary of Health Rebekah Gee and Chief of Staff Ben Nevers to hash out a deal with Our Lady of the Lake for the emergency room.

The state added a one-time payment of $5.5 million to its public-private partnership agreement with Our Lady of the Lake to build and staff the emergency room.

"North Baton Rouge obviously has a thriving community with a university, countless churches, great communities, wonderful families, but like people everywhere, they need access to critical services," the governor said. "They all deserve to be safe and free from the fear that there is no emergency room close by."

State Rep. Edmond Jordan said the addition of the emergency room does not satisfy all of the hopes for healthcare and other improvements in north Baton Rouge. But he called it an incremental victory, and said it will help lead toward more progress in north Baton Rouge.

"Today, we continue to weave the tapestry of equity here in our community," said Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome.

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Follow Andrea Gallo on Twitter, @aegallo.​