BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Gov. John Bel Edwards held a news conference Wednesday to officially announce the state's agreement with Our Lady of the Lake (OLOL) to open a new emergency room in north Baton Rouge.
The ER will be added on to OLOL's existing LSU Health Urgent Care Clinic on Airline Highway and will be staffed by emergency physicians 24/7 with a full-service lab and will be an extension of the main OLOL campus on Essen Lane. The deal is part of the state's renegotiated contract with the OLOL system to provide charity care in Baton Rouge.
Commission of Administration Jay Dardenne said the state will provide $5.5 million to help OLOL expand the current facility to allow the addition of an emergency room which is set to be operational within 12 months.
"As the son of a retired emergency room nurse, I know how critical it is for a community to have access to immediate care," said Gov. Edwards. "While this mission has been a priority for me and many other local officials, it's the voices of the people in this community that should be credited the most for making this day happen. I am grateful to everyone involved in making this new emergency room possible, especially Our Lady of the Lake and the community leaders who have carried this fight for nearly a year and a half."
Edwards said the facility has been top priority since he took office but getting there with the state's budget woes was a challenge.
"It's not easy to increase the services being provided when you inherit a $2 billion operating deficit in your budget so we had to be smart and we had to be strategic," he added.
Even though there are urgent care facilities, north Baton Rouge has been without an emergency room since Baton Rouge General shut down the Mid-City ER in March 2015 and Earl K. Long shut down in April 2013.
Since then, many politicians have fought long and hard to get a new hospital or ER facility for the area.
"I am happy and these are tears of joy," said Sen. Regina Barrow. "Having this ER here is going to mean that save many lives will be saved."
Some have criticized the plan in favor of a $3.2 million proposal from Champion Medical Center. The governor said while he did consider the option, there were too many red flags to move forward with it.
"I certainly looked at the proposal that came from Champion which doesn't run an emergency room anywhere, doesn't have a transfer agreement in Baton Rouge, runs boutique specialty hospitals that typically do not take Medicaid, and has not been approved by CMS to deliver emergency room care. I decided it was best under all of those circumstances to work with Our Lady of the Lake," he added.
Others praised the governor for his tireless efforts and his commitment to delivering a much-needed ER to north Baton Rouge.
"We appreciate Governor Edwards' partnership and his transparency in discussions that bring our community this opportunity," said K. Scott Wester, president and CEO of OLOL. "Our elected officials, physicians and community leaders have all contributed to the plan that takes advantage of assets like our trauma center, urgent care centers and clinics. Working together we maximize access to care for the families that count on us."
Our Lady of the Lake said more than 100 patients are seen at the LSU Health Urgent Care Clinic every day. Now, by adding an ER to the existing urgent care clinic, they hope to reduce the number of follow-up visits to the ER.