With about 18 months to go, construction on the expansion at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, which dominates Essen Lane near Interstate 10, continues on time, officials say.
“Everything is still on track,” LSU System Vice President Fred Cerise said. “They were trying to time it where it would be completed close to the time of the move, so there would not be an idle building there.”
The Our Lady of the Lake facility, known locally as the Lake, has agreed to take over the functions of LSU’s Earl K. Long Medical Center by 2014 and deliver medical care to the area’s lower-income population.
The cooperative endeavor agreement between LSU and the Lake laid out a series of construction projects, costing about $181 million, required before the move would take place.
The first of a five-phase emergency room project, which eventually will create the area’s only Level One Trauma Center, should be finished in September, said Mark H. Sybrandt, assistant vice president in charge of facilities and construction at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.
Bids to construct a $19 million medical education building on nearby Brittany Drive will be opened June 8, and ground breaking should be around June 18, he said.
Sybrandt said the medical care once provided by the hospital on Airline Highway will be integrated into the Lake’s usual operations. There will not be a separate building, but expansions of the Lake’s facilities are under way.
The most dominant project, the one whose construction activities most often delay motorists on Essen Lane, is the 330,000-square-foot Heart and Vascular Tower.
The 10-floor structure is built upon 564 piers drilled 70 feet in the ground that provide stabilization. The steel-framed structure has been erected. Sybrandt said the construction should be finished by September 2013 and the building outfitted with equipment and ready to open by November 2013.
The medical education building is where newly minted doctors, soon after graduating medical school, would undergo apprenticeship-like, hands-on training, known as residencies.
The emergency room expansion, basically, is filling an area that initially was designed in a “V” shape. New walls were erected and the old walls will be removed. During these phases, the Lake’s actual emergency room will shift from one area to another, until the construction is complete, he said.
The new facility will have high-tech radiology, an emergency room specifically aimed at children, and a helipad, which can handle two large Blackhawk helicopters at the same time.
During Hurricane Katrina, the hospital could only handle the large helicopter preferred by the military one at a time, he said. Blackhawks carry a half dozen or so patients compared with the usual vehicles that transport only one or two patients.
The Blackhawks were forced to hover while one was being unloaded. “If that’s your wife or your child up there waiting to land, and seconds could mean life or death, well, that’s unacceptable,” Sybrandt said.
“We’re building redundancy, so we can handle a larger volume of patients,” Sybrandt said. “We’ll be better equipped to handle the surge.”
Level One Trauma Centers have special equipment and trained physicians immediately available to handle a wide variety of emergencies.
New Orleans and Shreveport have this highest-level emergency care. The Trauma Center that eventually will open in the Lake’s expanded emergency rooms would be the Baton Rouge area’s first.
Certification to Level One takes several steps and likely will take a couple years.
Part of the agreement also called for LSU to build an urgent care center in north Baton Rouge at the same 5439 Airline Hwy. location as LSU’s North Baton Rouge Clinic. Under terms of the pact, the center has to be completed and operational prior to the closure of the nearby Earl K. Long hospital.
Construction on the 7,000-square-foot, $2.6 million facility is scheduled to start in July and be completed by March. The center will provide round-the-clock treatment 365 days of the year for patients with minor emergencies.
The Lake pact does not include provision of obstetrics service nor prisoner care on-site, which LSU has provided at Earl K. Long.
LSU already has entered into a contract with Woman’s Hospital for obstetrics care.
But arranging for prisoner care services has been more problematic.
Cerise said LSU has worked to reduce the number of prisoners who are being seen at the Earl K. Long facility. “We are doing so much with telemedicine,” Cerise said. In addition, surgery for inmates has been centralized in New Orleans, he said.
Cerise said LSU will soon release a request for a hospital to take over the inpatient prisoner care. The official paperwork is going under its final stage of review at the governor’s Division of Administration before release, he said.
The closure of Earl K. Long also has required the state to seek special permission from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The State wants CMS to run its outpatient clinics through a sister LSU hospital in Lafayette: University Medical Center. Approval is important because of the federal funding stream that’s generated through the clinics.
The state Department of Health and Hospitals submitted changes to the state plan that are now under CMS review, DHH Undersecretary Jerry Phillips said. Reviewers recently asked some technical questions, but “We expect by July 16 we will have approval,” he said.