By Leslie D. Rose
Last year, Baton Rougeans collectively breathed a sigh of relief when the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) shelled out a whopping $18 million to Baton Rouge General in efforts to keep its Mid City location ER open through the end of its fiscal year – June 30, 2015.
The generous funding was in response to the General’s board of directors’ vote last August to close the emergency room in November 2014. But on Feb. 3 a news release revealed that the allotted funding would fall months short of its one-year promise, giving the ER roughly 60 more days to remain open.
“We’ve left no stone unturned as we’ve sought solutions that would allow us to keep the Mid City ER open,” said Baton Rouge General President and CEO Mark Slyter. “Though closing Mid City ER doors, the care and commitment to our Mid City community remains strong.”
The news release continued that the hospital, DHH, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center (OLOL) would collaborate on a new model of health care for Mid City Baton Rouge.
“When [Mid City ER] closes, it’ll have almost been a full year,” said DHH secretary Kathy Kliebert. “Things change and we’re talking about healthcare changes and there have been numerous changes over the months.”
As for the employees of the Mid City ER, Kliebert said she believes that they will either retain employment through the hospital or have no trouble landing new opportunities as the healthcare field is always hiring.
The initial closure scare came as a result of an influx of uninsured patients who began using the hospital after the state closed the Earl K. Long Hospital (EKL) in April 2013. Without a charity hospital or facility close to that area of town, the Baton Rouge General Mid-City became the next hub for former EKL patients, as well as patients as far out as the Baker-Zachary area.
“The funding issue has a lot to do with where people go for services,” Kliebert said. “The why-now [closure] thing has to do with a new urgent care clinic that was opened up by [OLOL], and Baton Rouge General’s own assessment that the facility was not sustainable for the long term.”
According to reports, The Mid City hospital has had losses of $1 million a month with projections estimated to reach $20 million in 2015.
Officials said they are hopeful that citizens will now utilize the urgent care facilities and use what Kliebert referred to as judgment calls on when a situation truly requires the ER.