A key piece of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s remake of charity health care in Baton Rouge fell into place Tuesday with the formal opening of a new urgent-care facility that local officials praised.
The new LSU Health Urgent Care Center is staffed 24 hours a day to take care of minor emergency health issues ranging from broken bones, bad cuts and minor burns to sudden fever and sore throats. It replaces the emergency room at the LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center, called the Earl, which for years also provided care for non-life-threatening medical problems.
State Sen. Sharon Broome, a Democrat who represents the north Baton Rouge neighborhoods around facilities, on Tuesday called the new center “a beacon of health care in our community, responding to ... those in need.”
“Not only are we seeing you can get the quality care, but quality care that’s nearby,” Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden said.
Jindal said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that turning over the public health care to private management would improve the quality of care, help educate future doctors across the state and save taxpayers about $125 million dollars.
“The progress made here at Our Lady of the Lake through the public-private partnership is remarkable. This partnership and the other partnerships around the state are truly transforming access to health care for Louisianians,” Jindal said.
Kathy Kliebert, secretary for the state Department of Health and Hospitals, said the partnerships allow the facilities to expand access to services not previously available in many communities that rely on public health care. “This clinic is a critical part of that change in Baton Rouge,” she said.
The $2.8 million Urgent Care Center was a part of a public-private partnership agreement, in which Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center became home for hospital patients, the LSU medical education programs and an emergency room for life-threatening illnesses and injuries.
The Urgent Care Center is a 7,000-square-foot addition — with 10 examination rooms and X-ray capabilities — on the left side of the LSU Health North Baton Rouge Clinic, located at 5439 Airline Highway, within sight of the old Earl K. Long facility. Urgent care services have been provided since April at the North Baton Rouge Clinic while construction was being completed on the new center.
The Lake has been operating the clinic and urgent care services and will continue to do so.
Since April, the temporary center treated more than 10,000 patients who once would have gone to a hospital emergency room, Jindal said. Among those treated were 998 patients for hypertension or high blood pressure; 945 patients for respiratory and sinus relief; and 364 patients diagnosed with diabetes.
Jindal said the public-private partnership allowed the Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, called the Lake, to expand its emergency room for life-threatening maladies as LSU physicians and physicians-in-training are now housed at the Lake.
The Lake’s emergency room just attained Level II Trauma Center status from the American College of Surgeons, Jindal announced. Level II offers top-level 24-hour immediate coverage by general surgeons, as well as health care in the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care.
The Lake is progressing toward Level 1 designation, which requires completion and publication of research in the trauma and emergency medicine field.
Officials said that status should come in the next two years. The only other Level I Trauma Center in the state is in New Orleans.
Jindal called it another example of how the partnership is yielding benefits to residents.
Sen. Broome said after the ribbon-cutting event that people need to learn about the existence of the urgent-care center.
“I’m optimistic. I have to be to keep everybody encouraged,” Broome said.
“We still have to follow up and make sure we don’t allow any gaps such as in transportation, mental health,” Broome said. “We just can’t throw the vision out there. We have got to continue to work to make it happen.”