Cash sought to demolish ‘The Earl’

State Senate President Pro tem Sharon Broome said she will seek funding for demolition of LSU’s Earl K. Long Medical Center during the current legislative session.

“We don’t want it to become an eyesore,” Broome, D-Baton Rouge, said.

Broome said the hospital is antiquated and there are not many options available for its continued use because of its age and deterioration. “We need a fresh start. Things didn’t happen as we wanted them to. Now we have to be visionaries and look at what we can do to make this a good situation, a positive situation for the people of the community,” Broome said.

The north Baton Rouge hospital, on Airline Highway, closed April 15 as inpatient care, and medical education programs moved to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in south Baton Rouge. The hospital and its medical education programs were running into accreditation problems because of the building and its limitations, not the care being delivered.

Broome and others tried to get a new hospital constructed and keep it in the area of Earl K. Long. At one point, LSU officials were dealing with Baton Rouge General Health about potential takeover of part of the General’s Mid city hospital.

But Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration pushed the Lake deal as a cost saving move to avoid constructing a $400 million new hospital and provide a modern facility for traditional Earl K. Long patients and physicians in training.

Broome said she and state Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, are working with people and nonprofit groups in the community to come up with a project for the property “that will complement the community.”

The hospital is located on a 13-acre tract off Airline Highway, a major thoroughfare through the parish. There are 14 structures on the property, among them the main hospital, a medicine clinic, sub-specialty clinic, the Mental Health Emergency Room Extension, an emergency medical resident education building, a medical library and administration building. All are vacant.

LSU has control of the property. LSU system officials have not said what their plans are for the property.

LSU system Executive Vice President Frank Opelka has said LSU is leaving it up to local legislators “who have been most thoughtful about possible uses for the EKL site.”

Opelka said if there’s no proposal coming from legislators then the property would be declared surplus property making it available for sale.

Medical and other equipment and supplies on the property are either being leased to the Lake, transferred to sister hospitals, or sent to state surplus.