PRAIRIEVILLE — A $30 million neighborhood hospital that Baton Rouge General has had under construction for nearly two years will open its primary care doctor's office Monday and a new emergency room by next month, officials said. 

The new two-story, 42,550-square-foot Baton Rouge General–Ascension complex off La. 73 and near the Interstate 10 interchange is part of a deeper play that BRG executives hope to make in a growing part of Ascension Parish.

The hospital is located nearly equidistant from Ascension's historic medical corridor along La. 30 in Gonzales and the heart of Baton Rouge's medical facilities off Bluebonnet Boulevard and Essen Lane.

BRG officials said they picked the location in Ascension because more than 25,000 residents of Ascension Parish per year had been using the hospital's facilities in Baton Rouge, and the hospital saw a need to take services closer to the people.

"There was just so many people coming to Baton Rouge for care from Ascension, and they were just saying, 'Could you just bring something out to Ascension that could help us with that commute?'" said Tre' Nelson, BRG's project consultant and liaison.

The sleek, modern complex across from the Hollows of Dutchtown neighborhood has 10 beds for hospital inpatients, a 14-bed emergency room and a variety of the latest medical imaging equipment next to the emergency room for quick access, including 3D mammography and bone density scans, hospital officials said.

The neighborhood- or micro-hospital concept is part of a growing trend in the nation's medical industry but is BRG's first attempt at it. The idea is to bring a focused suite of services to a localized area.

In addition to primary care, Baton Rouge General–Ascension will have obstetrics and gynecology, physical therapy, and imaging and lab services.

The hospital doesn't have operating rooms, and, so while patients with heart attacks or other serious medical problems could be stabilized at BRG Ascension, they would eventually have to be moved to a larger hospital for treatment.

BRG officials said they hoped the services would meet the needs of the region's younger families, more established residents and industrial workers who may need rehabilitation from the job site.

BRG's Ascension Parish primary care physician group had been located in Oak Grove, farther north of the new hospital for the past few years. 

Primary care Drs. Stephanie Coleman and Vincent Nguyen and nurse practitioner Tara Kosick are in the group. They are expected to finish their move during the weekend, BRG officials said.

The Prairieville and Dutchtown areas that the hospital aims to serve had about half Ascension's population in 2018 and its most wealthy residents, according to the latest available estimates. 

In 2018, the five Parish Council districts that mostly closely matched the growing Dutchtown, Prairieville and Galvez areas of Ascension had an estimated 66,000 people and average median household income of $91,200, census estimates say.

The hospital is located in Council District 8 and near the border with Council District 4, both of which had the highest median household incomes in Prairieville. Council District 4 had the highest at about $111,110 in 2018. The state household income was $47,900 in 2018, census estimates say.

Other major hospital chains are also trying to establish or beef up their presence in Ascension. In March 2019, the former St. Elizabeth Hospital in Gonzales became part of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center; both had previously been stand-alone units of Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System.

St. Elizabeth executives said at the time the move would provide more access to cash for the hospital off La. 30 to keep up with the region's growth.

Ochsner Health also has continued to expand its forays into the parish. About a year ago, the primarily physician-owned Prairieville Family Hospital, another neighborhood hospital with an emergency room, opened on Airline Highway near the intersection of La. 42.

Dr. John McLean, a co-owner and interim CEO of that hospital, said he and his partners decided to invest in Ascension because the obvious growth happening the Prairieville area. Despite a slowdown from the novel coronavirus, McLean said his ownership is planning a second phase addition to the 10,000 square-foot facility, which currently has three emergency room beds and 10 inpatient beds.

McLean said there is more than enough need in Ascension for all the hospitals to succeed in the parish.

In design, layout and operations, BRG officials said, their new hospital is aimed at trying a more modern take on the traditional medical setting. 

Visitors will be greeted with touch pad kiosks and limited seating area in the hospital's two-story, glass-walled lobby to fill out the typical insurance and other paperwork a normal hospital visit would require. No clipboards, they said. BRG officials said they are banking on patients learning to use a hospital cellphone application to fill out their insurance and other information in advance.

"The idea is to kind of get people on board with having it all done before you even get here," said Katie Johnston, a spokeswoman for BRG. "And that's what we find. People want that. They want to schedule online. They don't want to have call and, you know, go through a phone tree."

The hospital will have workers in the lobby to help patients adjust to the new technology if they haven't used the cellphone apps. 

At the same time, the hospital has built-in design elements to help doctors and nurses handle older or less ambulatory patients get around the facility and onto some of the medical equipment. 


Email David J. Mitchell at dmitchell@theadvocate.com

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