Champion Medical Center in north Baton Rouge's Howell Place development closed, effective July 13, state officials said Monday.

Travis Spradling

Champion Medical Center has notified state officials they will close the north Baton Rouge surgical specialty hospital that was once touted as a potential site for a much-needed emergency room in the area.

Robert Johannessen, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Health, said the hospital called the agency Thursday about the impending closure “in the very near future.”

No formal letter had been submitted as of the afternoon, he said. According to Louisiana law, Champion has to give the state a 30-day notice before its closure and fill out required paperwork. 

Champion, which opened in early 2014 at 7855 Howell Blvd., is an 11-bed facility that specialized in spinal surgery, orthopedic and sports management, pain management, foot and ankle surgery, gastroenterology and breast reconstruction.

The center is owned by for-profit Dallas company NextHealth LLC. NextHealth's mailing address in Dallas matches that of Semyon Narosov, one of 21 health care executives charged in a federal indictment the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed in late 2016. Those indicted were all connected to the bankrupt Forest Park Medical Center in Dallas, which included several high-end and boutique-style hospitals not disimilar to Champion.

Officials with Champion referred calls about the closure to a Dallas-based hospital official, who did not return repeated phone calls.

Narosov's indictment came a few months after NextHealth executives made multiple trips to Baton Rouge in hopes of opening an emergency room the government would have had to subsidize.

As north Baton Rouge residents and political leaders tried to find answers in spring 2016 for the area's dearth of emergency health care, NextHealth operatives said they could build within a shell space at Champion Medical Center and open a small emergency room in the boutique-style hospital.

Champion executives asked for $6 million to $6.5 million to build the emergency room and then an annual subsidy of $3 million to $3.5 million to operate it during the first few years. The company, however, did not have the necessary certifications to accept Medicaid and Medicare payments, and executives said it would need a transfer agreement with a local hospital in order to be successful.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council passed a resolution encouraging Baton Rouge hospitals to discuss transfer agreements with Champion, but then Mayor-President Kip Holden bashed the idea and questioned the company's credibility.

Gov. John Bel Edwards later announced that his administration reached a deal with Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center to expand its north Baton Rouge clinic into an emergency room. Edwards said Champion had too many problems, that it lacked transfer agreements, did not accept Medicaid, was not approved to deliver emergency care and that its parent company ran no other emergency rooms.

Federal prosecutors allege Forest Park executives paid $40 million in bribes and kickbacks to health care professionals in exchange for referring patients to the medical center. At the height of the alleged scheme, Forest Park executives billed patients' insurance plans and programs for more than half-a-billion dollars between 2009 and 2013 and collected more than $200 million in paid claims, according to a Department of Justice news release.

Narosov ran a hospital consulting company with Andrew Jonathan Hillman, according to the unsealed indictment. The two Dallas men are alleged to have received $190,000 from bribes and kickbacks in exchange for referring patients to Forest Park or to surgeons at the hospital.

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.