CATS starts new service to Woman’s Hospital

When Woman’s Hospital moved from its former location on Goodwood Boulevard to its new campus near Airline Highway and Pecue Lane, it created a two-mile gap between the hospital and the nearest bus stop.

It’s not a safe walk, particularly for expectant mothers seeking medical care.

The Capital Area Transit System on Tuesday announced it is closing the gap by offering a circulator bus that will pick up riders from the intersection of Airline Highway and Sherwood Forest/Siegen Lane and take them to the new Woman’s Hospital. The service will run five days a week from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The circulator was one of three new services the bus agency announced at a news conference held at Woman’s Hospital that will connect patients to area hospitals.

Baton Rouge’s medical landscape has changed dramatically in the past year. Woman’s Hospital relocated to its new location in August, and Earl K. Long Medical Center closed its doors in north Baton Rouge in April.

In September, LSU closed a north Baton Rouge obstetrics clinic, meaning women needing prenatal care must now travel to the southern part of the parish to visit the new Woman’s Hospital.

State Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, drew attention to the gap in service in January by taking a CATS bus from the former Earl K. Long Hospital in North Baton Rouge to the closest bus stop to Woman’s Hospital and walking the rest of the way.

“That took me over an hour,” she said of the two-mile walk on the shoulder of the highway that involved crossing two major intersections. “We almost got hit once because someone made a wide turn. It was quite exciting and dangerous.”

The bus system also has created services for the Medical Complex Corridor, serving Woman’s Hospital, Our Lady of the Lake, Baton Rouge General at Bluebonnet and Ochsner at Bluebonnet.

The bus route will circle the four hospitals and bring passengers to the Mall of Louisiana, where they can enter the regular bus system. The route will run seven days a week from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

The Mall of Louisiana is the closest bus stop to Our Lady of the Lake, Baton Rouge General and Ochsner. Our Lady of the Lake is more than a mile away from the stop.

CATS also is offering a free service to patients who are taken to one of the four hospitals by ambulance and have no other means home.

The service will pick up patients from the hospitals and bring them to a bus stop to enter the regular system to get home. All rides and transfers are free of charge. The service began in the 1990s, but had been cut due to budgetary constraints.

Robert Mirabito, CATS newly appointed interim chief executive officer, said the medical routes have been in the works for several months.

“We’re making it a little bit easier for people to access the care they need,” Mirabito said. “The last thing a family or patient needs to worry about after getting discharged from the hospital is, ‘How do I get home?’ ”

The services went into effect Tuesday.