Plans to build a freestanding emergency room at Canal Street and Carrollton Avenue cleared a hurdle Thursday as the New Orleans City Council voted unanimously to allow the demolition of a retail store on the site.
At the same time, work has begun on a similar facility on Lapalco Boulevard in Marrero, while the status of a third proposed facility on Bullard Avenue in New Orleans East is unclear.
The proposals appear to be part of Ochsner Health System’s partnership with Texas-based Adeptus Health to bring such stand-alone facilities to the New Orleans area, as first announced in September. The groups have largely kept mum about the number and locations of facilities they are eyeing, though city proposals and signage indicate they have looked at those three locations.
Freestanding emergency rooms have become a trend in cities and suburbs across the U.S. as health providers try to cut down on long waits in crowded, conventional ERs. The facilities usually are open around the clock and provide quick treatment in life-threatening situations.
They have been somewhat controversial, in part because some patients apparently have confused the new ERs with often-cheaper “urgent care clinics” and complained after being hit with expensive bills.
Some emergency rooms also are not affiliated with hospitals and cannot accept Medicaid or Medicare because they are not recognized by the federal office that governs those programs, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians.
However, the planned New Orleans emergency facilities will be affiliated with Ochsner, in partnership with Adeptus, the parent company of a freestanding ER network called First Choice Emergency Room.
City Councilwoman Susan Guidry confirmed Ochsner’s plans for the Canal Street site Thursday, just before the council voted to allow demolition of the Sofas & Chairs store at that location.
“Ochsner is going to put a stand-alone emergency room at that location,” Guidry said, adding that the Mid-City Neighborhood Association has no opposition to the plans.
Sofas & Chairs, a business owned by veteran interior designer Mary Lib Cole, cleared out of its nine-year home after its lease ended last week, Cole said. The store will move to a Metairie Road site by July 1.
Donald Bock, of the New Orleans Firemen’s Federal Credit Union, which owns the building, said the property’s sale to Ochsner is pending.
Ochsner’s proposed 8,100-square-foot ER at Canal and Carrollton will have 32 parking spaces for patients as well as patient and ambulance drop-off areas, applications recently filed with the city show. Proposed signage indicates that it will be open around the clock.
The 7,431-square-foot Bullard Avenue building would have 25 parking spaces and a similar layout and operating hours, application documents indicate, though those documents have not received the City Planning Commission’s OK.
Meanwhile, a construction crew was spotted turning dirt at the Lapalco Boulevard site on Thursday, though Ochsner did not provide any details about what is planned at that site. A sign at the site declares that an Ochsner emergency room is “coming soon.”
Staff writer Chad Calder contributed to this report. Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA.