The two minutes’ difference in arrival times at Baton Rouge’s emergency rooms may not seem like much, but it’s a lot if you’re the patient in an ambulance.
The closure of emergency rooms on Airline Highway (the old Earl K. Long hospital in 2013) and on Florida Boulevard (Baton Rouge General Mid City last year) clearly has had some impact on East Baton Rouge Parish.
It took ambulances carrying Baton Rouge patients two minutes longer on average to arrive at an emergency room last year than it did in 2012, before the two ERs closed. At the same time, though, area hospitals, and particularly the public-private partnership with LSU and Our Lady of the Lake, have helped bridge the gap.
On Airline, the 24/7 services at LSU’s clinics — including physicians on-site — are not getting the attention they deserve for providing health services in the area. Other urgent care clinics are ways to bridge the ER gap, even if the higher level of services, and thus of expenses, of an emergency room are reduced by health care providers.
One of the sad facts, despite the nobility of the work carried on by the LSU staff of the old Earl, was the hospital was aging, and budget cuts gradually reduced what could be done with patients with serious injuries for years before its formal closure.
Then and now, most people in dire emergencies — such as trauma victims who have gotten in car wrecks, who are bleeding from gunshot wounds or who have fallen down — will not be taken to an emergency room in north Baton Rouge.
The new partnership with LSU provides at OLOL a Level 1 trauma center that is a regional resource, essentially staffed at levels that a hospital probably could not sustain absent the public-private partnership. So there are real advances in trauma care in the region.
We can’t prove that emergency response times haven’t hurt — or killed — someone already, nor can we say that they’ve made no difference at all. But there is no question that there is quality care available in Zachary’s Lane hospital to the north as well as the other providers in the southern and eastern ends of the parish.
As the ER gap becomes a political issue in an election year for city-parish offices, we hope candidates will take the opportunity to hear from medical professionals about the issues. One thing that will doubtless come up in those conversations is the urgent need for people in the poorest areas of the city to get signed up for Medicaid insurance for the working poor.
A new initiative by Gov. John Bel Edwards will allow people in low-wage jobs to access the care they need, preferably in a doctor’s office, before a trip to the ER becomes necessary. The urgent care facilities, whether LSU’s or others, can do more for patients who have a medical history that the physicians or nurse practitioners can work with.
Health care discussions should not be limited to ER locations. Improving health outcomes throughout the parish should be the political leaders’ goal, just as we believe it to be the health care professionals’ goal.