Newsmaker of the Week: Champion Medical Center

As the outcry about the lack of emergency care services in north Baton Rouge grew last year, several leaders in the area pushed for a new emergency room to open in Champion Medical Center.

The for-profit specialty surgical hospital opened in early 2014 at Howell Place, a mixed-use development near the Baton Rouge airport. An emergency room at Champion would have cost the state about $7 million, with annual operating subsidies of at least $3.3 million in the first few years.

And though the Metro Council passed a resolution encouraging local hospitals to enter into patient transfer agreements with Champion, the hospitals were cautious.

Some state and local leaders—notably former Mayor Kip Holden—even pushed back against the proposal. And Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration ultimately decided to strike a deal that would have Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center expand its north Baton Rouge clinic to include an emergency room.

This week—almost a year after the state signed the deal with OLOL—Champion officials notified the Louisiana Department of Health that they are shuttering the Howell Place facility.  

Texas-based Next Health LLC—Champion’s parent at the time of the north Baton Rouge ER proposal—has been at the center of several allegations of bribery and kickback schemes.

Next Health executives broke away from the company in March—acquiring control of Champion—but ultimately couldn’t make it work.

Those officials declined to comment on the pending closure. However, Mike Austin, a board member of Champion’s parent Forge Health System, said the company would release more information next week.

The move comes as attention is turned toward revitalizing north Baton Rouge, spurring economic development and closing health gaps. A new economic development district dedicated to the area will soon get its first round of funding, and Southern University has an ambitious campus expansion plan.

It’s unclear what’s behind Champion Medical Center’s closure.

“I don’t think there will be a great impact as it relates to the north Baton  Rouge health and economic development landscape,” Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks tells Daily Report. “I continue to be encouraged that there will be victories and defeats in our quest to increase equitable economic development opportunities in north Baton Rouge.”

—Sam Karlin

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