Baton Rouge General will turn its Mid City campus into a hub for seniors and patients with chronic illnesses, as well as those with mental health issues, under a plan revealed Wednesday.
The Bluebonnet hospital will become the centerpiece of a 142-acre development that will go beyond health care services and could include entertainment and lifestyle programs, President and CEO Mark Slyter said. There are 62 acres available for development at Bluebonnet, and the health system is talking to developers about the best options for those properties.
“Our vision is to create an environment that is health-focused and -centric, a walking environment that has the right healthy eating and cafes, health grocery stores or retail, that type of environment,” Slyter said. “Maybe multi-use space … something like that (Perkins Rowe).”
Meanwhile, Slyter emphasized that the Mid City location will remain open.
Slyter said a closure is one of three “myths” he wants to dispel. The others are that Ochsner Health System is buying Baton Rouge General and that BR General has made massive layoffs. The hospital did cut 50 to 60 positions, but that is a fraction of the health system’s 3,500 workers.
Baton Rouge General developed the new Mid City strategy after more than 18 months of planning and talks with more than 5,000 people, including community members and elected officials. The plan includes:
Expanding the behavioral health services wing. The hospital will add 19 beds — nearly doubling its accommodations — for patients age 50 and older with mental health issues, such as depression, bipolar disorder and dementia. The General also plans to add chemical dependency services and expand outpatient services at the Behavioral Wellness Center.
Establishing a Health Innovation Center, a pilot program to improve care for patients with complex health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease. Services include pharmacy and nutritional counseling, health coaching and education, and primary care.
Expanding access at Mid City Medical Clinic, including care for walk-ins and weekend appointments. The clinic will feature a flat fee and reduced lab rates for the uninsured.
Turning the campus into more of a community destination, with meeting spaces, dining and catering, retail shopping, wellness and education.
A telehealth pilot project that will allow patients to visit with doctors and other providers via computer or mobile devices.
Other services at the Mid City campus include cancer treatment, rehabilitation, skilled nursing commonly found in nursing homes, hospice care, sleep medicine, and clinical/graduate medical education.
The shift to a chronic-care focus places Mid City on the leading edge of a rapidly changing health payment model — from an emphasis on in-patient, fee-for-service care to paying providers to keep patients healthier and out of the hospital.
Dr. Kenny Cole, chief clinical transformation officer, said patients with chronic conditions make up 20 percent to 30 percent of the population but account for 60 percent to 80 percent of health care spending.
And a lot of that spending is on complications from those chronic conditions, such as diabetics who have a stroke or develop kidney disease and need dialysis, or have a foot amputated, Cole said. All of those are very expensive complications.
If a care model can be designed to prevent those outcomes, everybody wins, he said. The Health Innovation Center will put together a team with a doctor; a nurse practitioner or physician assistant; nurses who serve as care managers/coordinators; and others who can help counsel patients to help change their eating and physical activities to improve their health.
The General will start with about 200 of its own employees, then expand the program to those of self-insured companies and to insurers’ programs, he said.
The new focus at the Mid City campus falls in line with options Slyter touched on earlier this year after the hospital closed its emergency room. The move angered area residents, community leaders and elected officials. In February, state Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb said closing the ER would “put the Capital City in a death zone.”
However, in a news release announcing the plans for Mid City, Dorsey-Colomb commended Baton Rouge General for working with the community.
“Our community is blessed to have an organization devoted to doing what’s right for the people who live here,” she said.
The work that’s taken place over the past two years will preserve care for Mid City and all of Baton Rouge, Dorsey-Colomb said.
Meanwhile, Baton Rouge General is still trying to figure out what to put in the unoccupied half of the 800,000-square-foot Mid City facility. Slyter said the health system is looking outside of health care. Some possibilities include meeting space, dining and catering, retail, and wellness and education.
The plans for the developing the Bluebonnet campus are a little more concrete. They include moving the Regional Burn Center there from Mid City and expanding it. The work will involve adding three floors on top of the Bluebonnet emergency department at a cost $38 million to $40 million, Slyter said. Baton Rouge General hopes to raise half of that from public and private funds.
Slyter said the master plan includes a “Midway Boulevard” stretching from the as-yet-to-be-built Dijon Extension to Picardy Avenue, which would help reduce north-south traffic.
Baton Rouge General won’t develop the properties around the hospital itself but may invest in some of the developments, Slyter said. This would diversify the health system’s holdings, a plus given the uncertainty of returns in health care.
Follow Ted Griggs on Twitter, @tedgriggsbr.