BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Emergency care has returned to north Baton Rouge, less than a mile north of the old Earl K. Long Hospital site on Airline Highway.
The Lake's North Emergency Room is located at 5439 Airline Hwy. and began accepting patients at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, November 15.
Governor John Bel Edwards joined city leaders Wednesday morning to cut the ribbon on the new emergency room. The region hasn't had an emergency room for four years since Earl K. Long Hospital closed.
After that closure, state legislators like Senator Regina Barrow and Representative C. Denise Marcelle began pushing for a new emergency room.
"We tend to have higher risk factors in our community, so heart attack, diabetes, those things seem to be a lot higher in our community and so the needs and some of the chronic illnesses associated with that, that send people to the hospital are a lot higher, and so having the access here where people don't have to travel as far is extremely important," Barrow said.
"The reason it's important is because it's been more than four years since the closing of Earl K. Long," Edwards said. "And the citizens of this community, in my estimation, did not have proper, meaningful access to emergency room care."
The new 24-hour Our Lady of the Lake North Emergency Room is a unique ER. It shares a building with the Lake's LSU partnered urgent care center, making it easier for patients to get the type of care they need, emergency or not.
"It's connected on both sides for ease of patients getting what we talked about from the beginning, right care at the right setting at the right time," said the Lake's chief operating officer, Terrie Sterling.
At times, there can be some confusion over whether a patient needs emergency care, or if an urgent care can tend to their needs. A helpful guide for patients can be found here.
Sterling explains that new technology and electronic records keep all the campuses connected in real time. Because of that, a physician treating a patient on the urgent care side of the facility can quickly transfer the patient to the ER side if needed, and vice versa. "That physician can look into the medical record and see everything that's gone on in the last hour or two that they've been caring for you," said Sterling.
That transparency is vital. While this ER does not have surgical capabilities, it does have a trauma room with telemedicine capabilities. The video call system allows staff at the North Emergency Room to connect to specialists, like neurologists, off campus. If a patient's case needs more advanced treatment, the north ER can stabilize the patient and then quickly transfer them to the Lake's main campus on Essen Lane.
"We wanted to make sure we had life sustaining capability," said Sterling.
Sterling adds that local first responders and paramedics are aware that the new ER does not have a surgical unit, so any trauma cases transported by those professional services would be taken to another appropriate facility.
A unique feature for the new ER is a CT scanner, which is used to diagnose or rule out a variety of conditions. It also has a room for OB/GYN cases, and a psychiatric patient holding room.
The Lake expects up to 20,000 patients to come through the new ER each year, in addition to the nearly 40,000 that already use the urgent care center next door. The ER will have eight beds, in addition to the 11 beds already in place at the urgent care center. In all, the facility is similar in size to the Lake's ER in Livingston Parish.
At the Livingston Parish ER, data shows about half of the patients use Medicaid to pay for services. The remaining patients are split among Medicare and commercial insurance providers. Sterling expects a similar pattern at the new ER.
"This is the first time in our community where there is a mature urgent care that's adding emergency room that also has primary care, pediatric care, there's an infusion center here, lab, and pharmacy and all those things," said Sterling. "It really is filling that continuum of care."
Officials say within the first 12 hours of being open, the ER saw 64 patients. Staff determined that 12 of those patients were non-emergent and they were able to go to the urgent care clinic next door. And on the flip side, eight patients who visited the urgent care clinic who had more serious cases were sent to the ER for treatment.