Governor Edwards announces ER in north BR, Council member slams plans
BATON ROUGE – Governor John Bel Edwards detailed Wednesday on Our Lady of the Lake’s plans to bring a new emergency room to north Baton Rouge.
The new emergency room is set to be built at the LSU Health Baton Rouge North Clinic on Airline Highway. OLOL plans to staff the facility with emergency physicians 24 hours a day with a full service lab.
Edwards said returning emergency room services to north Baton Rouge has been a priority since he was elected as governor.
“As the son of a retired emergency room nurse, I know how critical it is for a community to have access to immediate care,” Edwards said. “I am grateful to everyone involved in making this new emergency room possible.”
Edwards thanked Our Lady of the Lake as well as other community leaders who have fought for new services for more than a year and a half.
The LSU Health Baton Rouge North Clinic has sought to deliver urgent care to the north Baton Rouge area since the closure of the Baton Rouge General Mid City ER.
“We appreciate Governor Edwards' partnership and his transparency in discussions that bring our community this opportunity," President of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center K. Scott Wester said. "Our elected officials, physicians and community leaders have all contributed to the plan that takes advantage of assets like our trauma center, urgent care centers and clinics. “
But not everyone was happy with the governor’s announcement.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Metro Council member Chauna Banks blasted the plans, saying Edwards stole her vision for a full service ER in north Baton Rouge and crafted his own.
Banks argues that with the state paying Our Lady of the Lake Hospital $5.5 million to open the emergency room, it "offers no opportunity for growth or economic development" at the Airline Highway location.
Banks points out that Champion Medical Center was initially the "only medical provider" willing to expand its hospital to accommodate the emergency room in Howell Place and said that OLOL is being "arm twisted" into the deal.
See below for Banks' full statement:
"After the closing of Earl K. Long Charity Hospital and the Emergency Room at Baton Rouge Mid-City, there was a cry from in north Baton Rouge residents for a new hospital. In that there is no shortage of hospital beds, myself and several north Baton Rouge residents and stakeholders began to explore the possibility of a free-standing ER in north Baton Rouge.
The news began to report on our goals and several media reports indicated that the local hospital players, OLOL, Oschner, and Baton Rouge General were not interested in providing this much needed medical service in north Baton Rouge. OLOL CEO, Scott Webster went so far as to say it was a "myth that there is a need for ER services in north Baton Rouge."
Webster did meet with me, commission members, and Champion executives, at which time he told us that he did not have physicians that were available or wanted to serve a north Baton Rouge location.
Hence, I along with 9 Black community leaders and professionals organized the NBRNOW Blue Ribbon Commission. Our mission is to advocate for healthcare and economic development in north Baton Rouge.
The commission began to put out fillers for an ER in north Baton Rouge. To our surprise, we didn't have to look far, there was a three-year-old Louisiana formed surgical hospital that fit the bill. Champion Medical Center, which operates under a hospital permit would be able to expand its hospital and build a full service ER department in Howell Place.
This location would not only close the healthcare disparity in north Baton Rouge, but be an anchor for economic development in an area that has struggled for completion over 10 years.
In Howell Place, there already are medically connected providers, restaurants, hotels, a YMCA and BREC park. Next to Champion is an empty 7 acres, which could one day be a hospital if needed.
The NBRNOW Blue Ribbon Commission was not discouraged by the naysayers and initially were encouraged by a new Governor, who had signed a bill to expand Medicaid in Louisiana. So we began trying to connect the Champion executives and Gov. Edwards in March. Our group met several times with everyone in the Governor's administration, but the Governor, who refused to meet with a business that had already invested 20 million in our state and willing to do more with the proper public-partnership.
This "cat and mouse" game went on for three months. By then we are in July, which resulted in the killing of Alton Sterling and ambush of six law enforcement officers. Last month we experienced a devastating August flood, in which myself and the same NBRNOW Blue Ribbon Commissioners had turned our attention to helping our community with all the difficulties that loom.
Here we are in September, an announcement is made that the state is paying OLOL $5.5M to open an ER at a location that offers no opportunity for growth or economic development on Airline Highway.
Let us not dismiss the fact that Champion Medical Center, this is the ONLY medical provider that willingly stepped up to the plate when OLOL and other hospitals continuously expressed no interest in helping our community close the healthcare gap for emergency care and other medical services in north Baton Rouge…and at a much less cost!
In essence, the Governor's administration stole our vision for north Baton Rouge and re-packaged it as their own. This gives credence to the notion that white privilege, power, and position knows what is best for black communities and will do ANYTHING to advance.
In the middle is OLOL being "arm twisted" into this deal, in order to get the rest of the safety net hospital deal signed.
Well, I am not impressed or enthusiastic regarding this news. This is not the first commitment OLOL has made to north Baton Rouge.
• OLOL put a trailer clinic at the corner of Rosenwald Road and Scotland Avenue and closed it without notice.
• OLOL promised the Howell Place developer they would open a clinic at the site prior to building and reneged on the deal.
• OLOL snuffed the life out of the Greater Baton Rouge Surgical Hospital owned by a group of black physicians by refusing to make referrals to them.
OLOL is not making on investment into this project, so the only loss will be our taxes dedicated to them by the Governor. Each contract year OLOL is going to bleed the state for more and more money to keep this ER going.
And the ability to obtain healthcare and economic development! BOTH BADLY NEEDED!
Same game, new players!"
- Chauna Banks