Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center says the reasons why the hospital agreed to take over Earl K. Long charity hospital’s patient load begin with Hurricane Katrina.
OLOL Vice President of Mission Coletta Barrett said immediately post-Katrina there were 325 residents, fellows, medical students that showed up at Our Lady of the Lake looking for a place to practice. She and Vice President of Operations Stephanie Mason tell WRKF’s Ashley Westerman that from that point forward, OLOL decided to assume an active role in solidifying the pipeline of physicians for Louisiana.
Taking over EKL, they said, is a step in that direction.
WESTERMAN: Earl K. Long Medical Center closed a couple of weeks ago and I have a clip of some former Earl K. Long employees who I spoke with last week who say that the closure of bungled with some critical questions left unanswered even after closing day:
“We kept being told over and over again, ‘We don’t know. Nobody’s told us anything.’ Even our own Emergency Medical Director up until the very last day was told that, ‘We don’t have anything to tell you.’”
Can you tell me what Our Lady of the Lake’s official role in the transition and closure of Earl K. Long was?
MANSON: Sure. Our Lady of the Lake’s responsibility was to assume the operations, to have the graduate medical education, which Coletta just spoke about, in our hospital as well as to operate the outpatient clinics that were formerly run by Earl K. Long. And so I can understand some of the frustration of not feeling like there were answers because we were working on a November 2013 timeline all along and probably in the December, January time frame, it become clear that we were going to need to move that up.
WESTERMAN: And just to clarify, from the beginning it wasn’t Our Lady of the Lake’s responsibility to tell Earl K. Long how to transition into the closure.
MANSON: Correct. Our responsibility was that at the time that we officially had an agreement with the state and with LSU then it became our responsibility to say, “Okay, we will be owning and operating as of April 15th.” And so we then stepped in officially to begin that recruiting process. We went out, several leaders went to Earl K. Long and spent a day there with, I think, three or four information sessions for employees to just come and talk about how do you apply. We also participated in several job fairs that were held on campus at Earl K. Long. We set up a website, specifically LSU Health-BR transition website. We wanted to make everyone had an opportunity and knew that we were posting jobs and we very much welcomed their application.
WESTERMAN: Our Lady of the Lake took over five outpatient clinics, and there’s been some concern expressed that Our Lady of the Lake was not ready for the influx of uninsured patients that made up most of Earl K. Long’s patient population. Let me play you another clip from my previous interview with former Earl K. Long employees:
“The policies and procedures are still not in place in the clinics. Patient visit numbers are down in the clinic because patients aren’t either able to get to the new clinics, have no idea where the clinics are. It’s very difficult for the patients at this point to receive the care they were receiving prior to us.”
Is there any truth to that at all?
BARRETT: This is Coletta. Certainly the visits are down but the visits are down because the schedules were closed in preparation for the transition and so to be able to open up those slots to put patients into could only occur after the transition occurred and you’re able to get the procedures and processes in a new place. Interesting is that the clinics, most of the clinics have stayed in the exact same place. The only clinic that has moved is the Medicine and Medicine Specialty clinics that were located on the campus of Earl K. Long themselves. And it is true, that clinic has moved to O’Donovan Drive on Our Lady of the Lake campus. As far as access goes, we have been working with CATS since January of 2011 on how we can look at a either a closed-looped sort of route or an express route that comes from the northern part of the Parish, not transitioning at Florida Blvd. to get to the south park.
WESTERMAN: And finally, what is some of the feedback that you all have been hearing or received from patients who were once Earl K. Long Medical Center patients and are now receiving care from Our Lady of the Lake.
BARRETT: This is Coletta. I had the pleasure of speaking at St. Mary’s Baptist Church on Sunday. We’re doing this community outreach to make sure we’re educating the community about urgent care and the appropriate use of emergency rooms and the access that’s available now in the northern part of the parish that wasn’t there before. And after the church service a woman came up to me that said, “Thank you.” She said, “I’ve been going to the Mid-City clinic for a really long time and I want to tell you what happened on Friday.”
She said she went to pick up her prescription because she thought that she had called it in but then when she realized that she had no called it in, she was prepared to not get her prescription because that’s been the process in the past. She was shocked when she walked in because there was no line waiting and wondered what was going on. Actually dropped her prescription off and found out that she had not called in the refill and was prepared to have to come back another day to get her prescription. She was told that, “If you just wait a few minutes, we’ll fill it for her.” She figured that “a few minutes” meant a couple hours so she went to visit with somebody and came back 30 minutes later and was surprised to find that her prescription was already filled and was in the bin waiting for her to come pick it up. And just was very thankful for that and sharing hopes that other improvements would continue as we were able to bring additional resources to the LSU clinics than what they had previously had access to in the past.