North Baton Rouge ER opening Wednesday; New OLOL Mid City clinic likely won’t happen before 2021

Officials with Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center are preparing for Wednesday’s grand opening of the long-awaited north Baton Rouge emergency room on Airline Highway, which is expected to see upwards of 10,000 patients a year.

Though the 8,000-square-foot, freestanding emergency room will not be able to treat patients with the most severe emergencies, the facility—which is adjacent to the OLOL-LSU Health North Clinic and Urgent Care—is expected to provide badly needed healthcare access to the north Baton Rouge population, which has been without an emergency room since Earl K. Long Charity Hospital closed in 2013.

The opening is not only a win for the community in north Baton Rouge but also for Gov. John Bel Edwards, whose administration began working almost immediately after taking office in 2016 to make the deal happen.

Under the terms of the arrangement, OLOL—which already has an agreement with the state to provide indigent care through its graduate medical education training partnership with LSU—will receive somewhere between $7 million and $10 million per year to operate the ER, depending on usage.

OLOL CEO Scott Wester says the hospital’s main emergency room on Essen Lane treats some 30,000 patients a year from the north Baton Rouge area.

“We don’t know how many of those will transfer to the new facility,” he says. “It could be anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000.”

Wester says the new facility will complement the adjacent primary care and urgent care clinics, the latter of which has been picking up a lot of slack in the years since Earl K. Long closed. Last year, the urgent care clinic treated nearly 40,000 patients—almost as many as the 48,000 the Earl K. Long emergency room was treating on an annual basis before it closed.

While the opening of a new facility will be a win-win story for the hospital, the state and the community, OLOL is having less success with its plans for a replacement facility for its LSU Health Baton Rouge Mid City Clinic at 1401 N. Foster Dr. The hospital acquired the former Brian Harris Jeep dealership site at 6815 Florida Blvd. in early 2016 with plans to develop a new 43,000-square-foot clinic.

But state lawmakers didn’t fund the project and now Wester says it could be 2021 before there’s a realistic chance of making anything happen on the site.

“Maybe 2020 or 2021 is the next time we could hope to get any funding for this,” he says. “Next legislative session there is going to be a lot of unpredictability with the fiscal cliff … so I don’t see any time in the next twelve to twenty four months for this unless we find some other avenues for reimbursement.”

—Stephanie Riegel

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