BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Change is coming to health care in Mid-City Baton Rouge, and it is a change that residents fear. Beginning April 1, the Emergency Room at Baton Rouge General Mid-City will be closed.
Since officials announced the closure, health care and community leaders have been working around the clock to make sure no one is without the access they need. Included in that conversation are the Department of Health and Hospitals, hospitals in the Metro Area, CATS and emergency care workers.
Part of the plan includes expanding services at the urgent care clinics already in the area. For example, the LSU Clinic on North Foster will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day starting March 23. Data from the area emergency rooms suggests that emergency rooms were seeing the most patients during those hours.
"About 73 percent of all the visits were between the hours of 9 am and 9 pm. So it wasn't random selection, it was very purposeful that we chose that," said Stephanie Manson, Vice President of Operations at Our Lady of The Lake.
The North Foster Drive location is also adding to its pediatric and adult services. The DHH has also worked to make sure the remaining city ER's will be able and ready to handle the extra patient load.
However, the biggest effort is educating patients about when to go to an urgent care center and when to call 911. DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert said that the best way to deal with any true, life threatening emergency is to call 911. Paramedics can begin medical care as soon as they arrive and during the transport to the emergency room.
She also explained that it's important that patients seek out primary care to help maintain good health.
"Developing a relationship with a primary care doctor is the first thing that we should do, the very first thing we should do in terms of accessing care, but we also recognize that you've got to be able to get that access," said Kliebert.
To help with access, there are also plans to work with CATS to provide transportation to and from clinics. Many urgent care and Federally Qualified Health Care Centers (FQHCs) already sit near CATS stops. Kliebert said they hope to bring more attention to where these clinics are located.
While it is a start, residents still worry that establishing a new health care culture in Baton Rouge will leave some patients behind.
"How many lives will be lost?" asked one pastor at a public meeting.
"That very question has been asked. What do we do to absolutely make sure that someone is not lost in the system," answered John Spain with Baton Rouge Area Foundation and moderator of the meeting.
More information on care access can be found here