DHH, BRG reach deal to keep MidCity ER open
BATON ROUGE - Hospital officials confirmed Wednesday afternoon that a deal had been reached between Baton Rouge General and state health officials to keep the emergency room at BRG Mid-City open.
Earlier Wednesday ER staff said they were told BRG would shut down the emergency room on Nov. 1. Hospital officials said they were losing a million dollars a month dealing with an influx of uninsured patients, which happened after state budget cuts caused Earl K. Long hospital to close.
DHH said they discussed giving extra uncompensated care funding to BRG in order to help cover their losses, and BRG accepted.
"We began this day with heavy hearts, but now move forward with optimism and tremendous gratitude," said Baton Rouge General President and CEO Mark Slyter.
Some city leaders think if Medicaid was expanded in the state, the funding gap at Baton Rouge General would be smaller.
"Those people are coming here and they're not going to Our Lady of the Lake like they said they were going to do initially, you know when you're sick you're going to go to the closest hospital, you're not going to go to the hospital that someone picked for you, you're going to go to the closest hospital," said Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle.
But officials with DHH maintain that expanding medicaid would not have helped.
"Even in conversations with the general they admitted that more people on medicaid wouldn't have solved their problem, we need to work to create a more sustainable system, we need to work to educate people about when it's appropriate to use the emergency room and when it's not and try to decrease the reliance on the emergency room," said Calder Lynch, Chief of Staff with the Department of Health and Hospitals.
Dr. Floyd Roberts, the medical director for Baton Rouge General, told The Advocate that by next year the hospital's losses would be up to $20 million. Roberts said BRG Mid-City was seeing nearly 400 additional uninsured patients every month, a 30 percent increase. Roberts also said they've had a 60 percent increase in uninsured psychiatric consults, brought on by the loss of Earl K. Long's mental health ER, as well as a 70 percent increase in surgeries for uninsured patients.
In recent years Governor Bobby Jindal's administration began moving health care money out of the state's charity hospital system and into privately-held companies, which led to the Earl K. Long closure. Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center contracted with the state to care for the poor and indigent, but many continued to seek care at Baton Rouge General which is the only remaining trauma center between Zachary and south Baton Rouge.