Ochsner Health System will invest more than $100 million to expand its Baton Rouge-area facilities, including building a new medical office building, a 10-bed micro-hospital and surgical center near the Mall of Louisiana.
Some of the projects had been announced earlier, but the total cost and a number of details were revealed Thursday. Ochsner will spend close to $90 million on the new facilities. The health system already has invested roughly $13 million in the newly opened Ochsner Baton Rouge Cancer Center on its O'Neal Lane campus.
"We want to make sure that we have proper coverage of the entire Baton Rouge market," Health System President and CEO Warner Thomas said. "In the past decade, we've made more investments in the east, on O'Neal purchasing the hospital and building more clinics. But really we want to have an east-west strategy."
The O'Neal Lane campus is the east anchor in this plan.
The planned five-story medical office building and attached 30,000-square-foot micro-hospital and surgical center in The Grove development near the Mall of Louisiana in the Bluebonnet-Siegen area will serve as the western anchor, with room for future expansions. The new facilities will replace Ochsner's Summa Avenue clinic.
Those two anchors are surrounded by 13 health centers and clinics in East Baton Rouge, Iberville, Hammond, Central, Zachary, Prairieville and Denham Springs. The Baton Rouge-area facilities will handle nearly 400,000 patient visits in 2017.
Eric McMillen, CEO of Ochsner Medical Center – Baton Rouge, said the health system expects to expand some clinics and add three to five new facilities over the same number of years.
Ochsner will continue its urgent care clinic strategy, he said. The system now has four urgent care clinics and two emergency departments in the capital region — one at O'Neal Lane and a free-standing facility in Iberville.
The Grove micro-hospital and surgical center will have four operating rooms, two gastrointestinal procedure suites and two pain management procedure rooms. Ochsner will increase its specialty care in thoracic surgery, neurosurgery and pediatric subspecialties. The center also will provide general, ear, nose and throat, orthopedic, gynecological and urology surgeries and physical therapy services.
The Advisory Board, a health care research, technology and consulting firm, says most health systems use micro-hospitals to serve markets where demand won't support a full-scale hospital.
It's unclear how many micro-hospitals there are in the United States, although most agree the number is rapidly growing. Earlier this year, Christus Health Shreveport-Bossier City broke ground in Bossier City on the state's first micro-hospital.
Commonly cited advantages for micro-hospitals include a more patient-friendly experience, broader services than an urgent care clinic or free-standing emergency department, faster discharge times and shorter stays.
Thomas said patients will spend two days at most at Ochsner's micro-hospital.
The facility will help Ochsner provide the most cost-effective, not to mention convenient and accessible, care to patients, he said.
Ochsner's investment includes $15 million in infrastructure improvements to improve drainage for the surrounding area, build new roadways and a bridge over Ward's Creek. In addition, Ochsner and BREC will spend $500,000 to help extend the existing walking and bike path in the area.
Ochsner is the state's largest not-for-profit health system and dominates the New Orleans market. In 2016, the health system announced a three-year, $360 million expansion at its main campus in New Orleans that will add seven floors to the hospital and 100,000-square feet to the Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center.
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But in the Baton Rouge area, the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System is larger, with its Our Lady of the Lake hospital and related clinics handling 1.48 million outpatient visits annually. Fifteen months ago, Ochsner and Baton Rouge General Medical Center announced a partnership that would help them better compete with the Franciscan Missionaries. In December, Ochsner and Baton Rouge General issued identical statements saying they had abandoned that plan.
Thomas said Ochsner remains committed to the Baton Rouge market and will continue to invest in it.
Ochsner had leased the Summa Avenue center from Baton Rouge General for 20 years and had outgrown the four-story, 146,000-square-foot facility.
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Ochsner didn't just want to replace what it had, the health system wanted to look at what would be needed in the future, Thomas said. That's why The Grove location will offer additional services and new capabilities to provide the right care models going forward.
Doing so will mean adding more facilities in the future, Thomas said. The Siegen Lane-Bluebonnet Boulevard campus has undeveloped land that will allow Ochsner to do just that, resulting in an even more comprehensive, integrated health system locally.
"There will be more to come in the future. This will really be Phase One. You'll see future phases going forward," Thomas said.
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Meanwhile, Ochsner also marked the opening of the Cancer Center, which also includes a hematology/oncology outpatient clinic featuring:
• Both chemotherapy infusion and radiation oncology. At more than 20,000 square feet, the center has twice the space of the previous facility and 15 chemo infusion stations, up from six.
• The clinic will have eight exam rooms and a radiation vault with a $4 million-plus linear accelerator.
• Access to a clinical cancer research program with a range of clinical studies for all cancer types. The research will include cutting-edge drugs, anti-cancer agents and early-phase clinical trials previously unavailable in Louisiana.
Dr. Edward Martin, chief medical officer of the Ochsner West Region, said the cancer center's expanded services will be needed.
Louisiana unfortunately ranks near the top when it comes to cancer rates. One in three residents will battle invasive cancer during their lifetimes, Martin said. Although the rate of cancer deaths is slowing, some estimates show the number of cases nationwide will increase by as much as 50 percent over the next 10 years.
In the center's first year alone, Ochsner expects to provide almost 6,000 radiation treatments and close to 12,000 chemo infusions.
"Unfortunately we're seeing more and more folks coming from further and further away that want to seek out our services, and that's really what this comprehensive cancer center in East Baton Rouge is all about," Martin said.