The promised emergency room in north Baton Rouge will break ground on Tuesday as the long-neglected part of the city is now a frequent topic of discussion in political, business and healthcare circles.
North Baton Rouge's citizens have watched their healthcare options decline over the past several years, as LSU's Earl K. Long Medical Center shuttered in 2013 and Baton Rouge General's Mid City Emergency Room closed in 2015.
After more than a year without emergency health care in north Baton Rouge, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced in September of 2016 that the state negotiated a deal with Our Lady of the Lake to expand their urgent care clinic on Airline Highway into a small emergency room.
An eight-bed emergency room in north Baton Rouge could be open and seeing patients in a year…
The emergency room is expected to have eight beds, and the urgent care side of the clinic will remain open for people with less serious healthcare needs. This will be Our Lady of the Lake's second standalone emergency room after opening Our Lady of the Lake Livingston in 2012, which also has physician offices for primary care and a pharmacy.
The north Baton Rouge emergency room that residents and politicians made their rallying cry …
The state is giving Our Lady of the Lake a one-time payment of $5.5 million to build the emergency room, but the hospital will absorb the additional expenses of staffing and operating the outlet. The payment is in addition to the hospital's $112 million contract with the state to take care of the poor and uninsured who used to go to Earl K. Long for treatment.
The building of the new emergency room comes at a time when several people and agencies are trying to improve north Baton Rouge. Voters approved a hotel tax in November that is funding the Baton Rouge North Economic Development District, and the district's board will soon start holding its meetings at the Our Lady of the Lake facility.
"The emergency room is a necessary part of having quality of life in north Baton Rouge," said the district's interim Executive Director Rinaldi Jacobs. "And from an economic development standpoint, people want to be assured they can get proper attention should they and their employees need it."
But the emergency room is not a cure-all. It will not be a trauma center, meaning people who are suffering strokes, heart attacks and serious injuries will likely still be routed to Our Lady of the Lake's Regional Medical Center on Essen Lane.
North Baton Rouge's residents also used to be able to choose between the mid city ER and the Earl K. Long ER farther north on Airline Highway. People in mid city will now have to decide if it's easier to drive north to the new emergency room or south to the others, Jacobs pointed out.
Emergency healthcare also is not the only type of health need in north Baton Rouge. Alma Stewart, president of the Louisiana Center for Health Equity, said the emergency room shows progress and is a step in the right direction.
"We want to see and will continue to explore more access to arrays of healthcare services, including primary care, in north Baton Rouge and other under served areas," she added.
The groundbreaking will be from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on January 31 at the LSU Health Baton Rouge North Clinic at 5439 Airline Highway.