BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Baton Rouge leaders and residents are bracing for the closure of the emergency room at Baton Rouge General Medical Center - Mid-City.
Officials said they were forced to shut down because they struggled with the costs of uninsured patients. This announcement sent shock waves through the community and prompted rallies and meetings.
However, sirens will fall silent around the Mid City Location starting Tuesday morning as the emergency services shift to the BRG's Bluebonnet Emergency Room. That ER has 28 beds, and a current average of 120 visits per day.
In the wake of the Mid City ER closure, BRG is also working to shift its patient loads and staff to make sure that its other non-emergency services at both campuses continue to operate normally.
"Our utmost purpose is to make sure we provide the best quality care for our patients and our community," said BRG's Chief Nursing Officer Anna Cazes. "We have scaled each of our staff and each of our departments to make sure we match the expertise of our clinicians to the services that we will provide to each of our hospitals."
However, when it comes to emergency care residents will have to look elsewhere. The remaining ER's inside Baton Rouge City Limits include Our Lady of the Lake, BRG's Bluebonnet Campus and Ochsner Medical Center.
"We really encourage individuals to get the right care at the right place," said the Lake's Chief Operating Officer Terrie Sterling.
Sterling gave 9News a tour of the Lake's emergency department which is broken down into six sections, including a trauma center and a kid's ER. There are a total of 86 beds, with construction underway on a new mental health emergency section.
When Earl K. Long closed in 2013, the Lake took over much of its services and its partnership with LSU. Sterling says this transition could be more challenging.
"The real difference in this transition is planned vs unplanned. Had the community been given even six month's notice, I think tomorrow and everyone's comfort with tomorrow would have been very different," said Sterling.
However, emergency care is only part of the complicated healthcare problem Baton Rouge is facing. Another issue is proper ER utilization.
According to BRG, nearly 80 percent of the ER visits it saw at Mid City were not true emergencies. That's why hospital leaders are working to reeducation patients about where to go for what care. Sterling says it's vital that residents establish a relationship with a primary care doctor. She says it's also important to take advantage of the city's many Urgent Care Centers for minor illnesses and injuries.
Finally, if it is a life threatening emergency, call 911.
"Life saving starts when those trained professionals arrive," said BRG consultant Jeff LeDuff. "There's nothing my wife can do for me inside a car but drive. They're (EMS) on the phone with the ER. They're starting lifesaving procedures in that transport to the hospital."
More information on the ER closure can be found here.