The limited number of paramedics in Louisiana’s capital city are finding themselves in even higher demand since Baton Rouge General Medical Center has launched its own ambulance service to transport some patients.
Baton Rouge General’s ambulance service, which started in January, is being used only to transfer patients between its midcity location on Florida Boulevard and its Bluebonnet Boulevard hospital, not to respond to emergency calls.
Still, ambulances have to be staffed with paramedics and Baton Rouge General has been busy scooping them up — something that has had an impact on the privately held Acadian Ambulance Service.
Justin Cox, operations manager at Acadian Ambulance, said the company has lost several paramedics to Baton Rouge General. He declined to release specific numbers on how many but said Acadian Ambulance employs more than 100 paramedics in the Baton Rouge area, which includes seven parishes.
“Anytime you open up a new market, you have to get those resources from somewhere,” Cox said.
Baton Rouge General’s move to create the new ambulance service comes amid an announcement last week that the hospital will close its midcity emergency room. The emergency room had increasingly become a hub for emergency transports from much of north Baton Rouge following the closure of Earl K. Long Medical Center.
Baton Rouge General used to use Acadian Ambulance to transfer patients between its hospital facilities but now has the option of using its own ambulances for many of those transports.
John Jones, a doctor at Baton Rouge General, said the two companies are not in competition and added “we really want to continue to partner with them on this.” Cox said Baton Rouge General has used Acadian Ambulance’s services since 1985 but that there is no formal partnership between the two.
Jones said Baton Rouge General has seven paramedics who transport patients between hospitals and that the hospital publicly advertised for the jobs.
“The volume of transfers that we have is going to determine the growth,” Jones said when asked about plans for the future of the hospital’s ambulance service.
Cox said it’s his understanding that Baton Rouge General will continue to use Acadian Ambulance for many of its transports, including the special critical care transport.
The new Baton Rouge General ambulance service won’t compete with the city-parish’s Department of Emergency Medical Services or Acadian Ambulance in terms of emergency transports.
The Baton Rouge General ambulance service, in its current form, will travel only between the Baton Rouge General hospitals and will not respond to the 911 calls to which EMS responds.
Acadian Ambulance backs up EMS and also provides many nonemergency transports as part of its operation, such as bringing people to nursing homes and to other hospitals for treatment.
Mike Chustz, EMS spokesman, said the Baton Rouge General ambulance service itself will not affect EMS because the two provide different kinds of transportation. He said the Baton Rouge General service has had “very little impact” on EMS staffing.
But one of Chustz’s hopes may no longer be a reality with the closure of the midcity ER. He said he was hopeful the new ambulance service would free up emergency room beds more quickly, which would cut down on the amount of time EMS paramedics spend waiting to drop off patients at the hospital.
Chustz told The Advocate after the ER closure was announced that the change would likely stretch the amount of time EMS workers wait to transfer patients from the ambulance to the ER. He now envisions increased EMS demand and said they may have to add more ambulances to keep up, while Cox also said the ER’s closure would affect Acadian Ambulance.