Hospitals Face Huge Changes in Louisiana

In Baton Rouge, talks to merge Earl K. Long Hospital with Our Lady of Lake Medical Center started years ago. Now, it’s crunch time. EKL closes in five days, but controversy comes with the closing: there is confusion with the poor and uninsured about what to do for healthcare.

“I detest in justice,” said Sen. Sharon Broome. “I am here for the humanity of people. Unfortunately, some people who are operating state government don’t see these issues with the people’s faces on it. I’ve had just about enough of it.”

Senator Sharon Weston Broome (D), district 15 says many of the concerns she has today are the same as she had three years ago when the EKL/Our Lady of the Lake talks started.

“Here we are five days away from closing a major healthcare facility in the community, and we’re still in a meeting trying to get answers to questions. That shouldn’t be,” says Broome.

The merger was scheduled to go into effect later this year, but state health officials say changes involving federal money forced them to move up their plans.

“The date of start was supposed to be no later than November,” says LSU Hospital Chief Dr. Frank Opelika. “Due to the FMAP, we’re moving it up as quickly as we can to maintain as many services as possible.”

Some Baton Rouge area lawmakers say they appreciate the efforts made by Our Lady of the Lake to make the changes work.

Sen. Bodi White (R ) Baton Rouge said, “I just don’t think they’ve got the help needed from the state to get it done in a timely manner.”

But hospital and health officials say services will be ready during a transition period they expect to last about six months.

“Beginning at 7 am, on Monday the 15th, we will have a 356-24/7 urgent center that is staffed and operational,” says Scott Wester, CEO of OLOL. “That will be at the existing North BR clinic.”

Others testified saying people in areas like Glen Oaks may not be able to reach services offered across town.

“They can walk to Earl K Long because they don’t have transportation. The bus is not going to run 24 hours a day,” said Dr. Joyce Keller.

Senator White says he’s already raised concerns about Lane Memorial and Baton Rouge General.

He says more uninsured people may be looking for care at those sites because of the EKL closure. White says not approving the merger plan today would potentially make that situation worse.

- Story courtesy Mike Steele WBRZ, Baton Rouge, April 11, 2013  

Central Louisiana lawmakers are watching this carefully, because they expect Huey Long Hospital in Pineville to be shut down at some point.

- KLAX ABC 31 News, April 11, 2013

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