The Catholic Commentator 

Emergency health care has returned to north Baton Rouge. 

OLOL emergency room photo 2.tif

Gov. John Bel Edwards, left, shares a light moment with Sister Barbara Arceneaux FMOL, regional minister for Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady North American Region, center, and Our Lady of the Lake president and chief executive officer Scott Wester following the grand opening of the OLOL emergency room in north Baton Rouge. The ER is the first in north Baton Rouge since Baton Rouge General Hospital closed its mid city facility more than two years ago.  Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator

 

Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center on Nov. 15 dedicated an 8,800-square foot emergency room at its Airline Highway location that also houses OLOL urgent, primary and pediatric care centers, making it one of the more inno0vative health care models across the country. 

OLOL chief executive officer Scott Wester said full and quality medical care is now available in an area that has been void of an emergency facility since Baton Rouge General Hospital closed its midcity facility in the spring of 2015. 

“(The emergency room) is the right care at the right time at the right place,” Wester said. “This is a model that is being replicated (in other parts of the country).” 

Gov. John Bel Edwards joined fellow elected officials and community leaders as well as several Franciscan Sisters in dedicating the new building, which is modeled after OLOL’s ER in Livingston Civil Parish. The facility features eight bays, 11 beds, state-of-the-art medical equipment including a CT scan and x-ray machine, pharmacy and various labs. 

“I made a promise during my campaign that health care in north Baton Rouge would be improved,” said Edwards. “Today we are delivering on that promise. 

“This is not about improving lives, this is about saving lives,” saying the facility would be “ministering health care that is most affordable (and appropriate).” 

Financing for the $9 million project was made possible through a unique partnership involving the state and OLOL. Under the agreement, the state contributed $5.5 million, with OLOL footing the rest. 

Our Lady of the Lake chief operating officer Terrie Sterling, in an interview with The Catholic Commentator the day before the dedication, said it was the state that originally approached the Franciscan Sisters about adding an emergency room at its Airline Highway center. 

She said she believes “the rather abrupt closing of the midcity room, was certainly a contributing factor” in the state coming to OLOL. According to Sterling, the emergency room has been in the planning stage for the past 18 months. 

She said extensive research showed the now shuttered Earl K. Long Hospital, which was also located in north Baton Rouge, had about 48,000 emergency visits annually. Currently, the OLOL urgent care is experiencing about 40,000 annual visits. 

She said statistics showing how many patients from north Baton Rouge zip codes have been visiting the main campus on Essen Lane and the Livingston campus were also analyzed. 

“We really did a lot of research and tried to bring forth what we believe would bring a great access point to the community,” Sterling said. “We’ve been able to do that by creating a very unique environment with an emergency care, urgent care, primary care, pediatric care and an emergency room setting on a free standing campus.” 

Sterling said the ER will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a total staff of about 70 people, including medical and support staff. The urgent care will reduce its daily hours from 8 a.m to 10 p.m. 

She and East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome agree the center will not only meet the community’s health care needs but also serve as an economic catalyst for an area of the city sorely in need of a financial boost. 

OLOL chaplain Father Sam Maranto CSsR, who offered the blessing, said the new ER is there to serve others. He also encouraged others to focus on the needs of the most vulnerable and needy members of the community. 

“What a difference that would make,” he said.