BR General Mid City adds ER beds

Baton Rouge General Medical Center Mid City is in the process of expanding its emergency room as LSU winds down operations at Earl K. Long Medical Center in north Baton Rouge.

Maryann Rowland, a Baton Rouge General spokeswoman, said the expansion comes as the Mid City hospital has been inundated with “a significant increase” of people showing up in the emergency room.

The number of patients visiting the emergency room has increased 20 percent during the past few months, prompting an addition to the emergency room, Rowland said.

The General’s Mid City location has 30 emergency room beds, Rowland said. The new project will add up to seven patient care areas, called bays, she said. “They are adding nursing staff and support staff as needed,” she said.

“It’s difficult to really know where the patients are coming from,” Rowland said.

But with the cutbacks at the Earl K. Long facility ahead of hospital’s closing in mid-April, Rowland said it makes sense that some of those patients are now showing up at Mid City’s emergency room seeking care.

“We are growing to support the needs of the community,” Rowland said.

LSU is closing the Earl K. Long facility and moving its in-patient and medical education programs to the Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center campus, called the Lake, located off Essen Lane in south Baton Rouge.

In preparation for the move, the Lake has expanded its emergency room capacity. 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. It will eventually become a Level 1 trauma center, capable of handling the most critical of medical care.

Officials at Baton Rouge General Mid City, located off Florida Boulevard, and Lane Memorial Medical Center, in Zachary, have each said they anticipate getting an influx of people who typically use the Earl K. Long facility because of their proximity to the Airline Drive facility.

Last fall, Lane Memorial Chief Executive Officer Randy Olson said the hospital had already experienced a 10-to-12 percent increase in emergency room visits over the year. And, he said, bad debts had gone up.

State Department of Health and Hospitals Undersecretary Jerry Phillips said the concern about the impact on Baton Rouge General Mid City and Lane Memorial was taken into account when the Earl K. Long-Lake deal was finalized in 2010. The hospitals would get paid more, through a rate increase, if the number of uninsured patients they treat hits a “trigger point criteria,” Phillips said.

LSU System Executive Vice President Frank Opelka said there should be some relief once an urgent care center under construction near the old Earl K. Long is completed later this year.

The facility will be a 7,000-square-foot extension of LSU Health’s North Baton Rouge clinic at 5439 Airline Highway. The center would provide round-the-clock treatment, 365 days a year for patients with minor emergency health issues, such as broken fingers, sudden fever, minor cuts and burns, and sore throats.

“We are transforming the safety net system. Patients are moving about,” Opelka said.

Opelka said people will have a tendency to go to the nearest hospital when they need care.