I may be a lot of things, but above all, I am a data man. I try to base most of my decisions on data. Data from people who have nothing to do with the situation I’m addressing. That’s why when I read a recent editorials by Stephanie Riegel and Rolfe McCollister of the Baton Rouge Business Report I was a little taken back. Number one, Stephanie nor Rolfe have yet to reach out to sit down with members of the #NBRNow Blue Ribbon Commission but on more than one occasion both she and her boss have referenced the plans presented without the data to back it up.
Even more troubling is Stephanie has not even sent a reporter to the community meetings concerning the ER at Champion in north Baton Rouge, therefore the only information she has received on the proposal is what she has read in The Advocate, Baton Rouge’s other slanted mainstream media outlet. So I had to ask myself, what is the reason for her to care? Well it’s simple Our Lady of the Lake and Baton Rouge General spend thousands of dollars in advertising with the Baton Rouge Business Report. It makes sense for her to speak up for them.
It is amazing that both Stephanie and her boss Rolfe decided to write about healthcare in north Baton Rouge from a limited perspective, yet they are considered credible. Why? Is it because they are white? Is it because their officers are in south Baton Rouge? Is it because they are well connected? None of these things make them experts.
One of the critical things that both Stephanie and Rolfe failed to mention in their editorials is that sending all the patients south helps make traffic worse in Baton Rouge. They also failed to mention that with the closure of the ER at Baton Rouge General and the hospital at Earl K. Long we have over-burdened the hospitals in south Baton Rouge. I sat in a room full of hospital executives a few weeks ago. Their comments were “our doctors are fatigued.” This is a result of putting the burden on them of treating all of East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, and much of the surrounding parishes. Those parishes have opened small facilities to help them treat patients in the same manner north Baton Rouge has suggested.
Stephanie and Rolfe also failed to mention that Baton Rouge doesn’t have the correct number of ambulances for its population. EMS needs more transport vehicles. As a result residents who live further away from emergency care are at a disadvantage.
The critical point is, opening an ER in north Baton Rouge is in large part to relieve the pressure on the facilities in south Baton Rouge so that the quality of patient care improves. So, while trauma’s may be transported to facilities in south Baton Rouge, every emergency won’t have to go south. Not to mention, the majority of ER visits are not brought via EMS, it is from walk in traffic. Having an ER in north Baton Rouge to relieve the already fatigued doctors at the medical facilities in south Baton Rouge helps to increase the quality of care patients receive. This is about lives and helping human beings. When I read the Business Report I question the humanity of its leadership often.
Rolfe questioned what healthcare experience I have. Well Rolfe, I was the supervisor of patient transport at Our Lady of the Lake right before they built the new tower. I helped oversee the restructure of the department to improve the quality of care patients received through the patient transport department. My job was to supervise a staff of 75 people at Our Lady of the Lake daily to move patients from the ER to patient rooms upstairs. To get patients from their rooms to testing and surgery. To help expedite discharges of patients so the emergency department of the hospital could clear its lobby. So Rolfe, I may not be clinical, but I have perspective that you don’t. I know what it looks like in that emergency room when they are slammed with patients, because it was my job to help them clear the emergency room. You speak continuously to promote Charter Schools, I don’t know that you’ve ever taught black children or raised any. Yet you continue to interject yourself into that conversation. You’re not an expert, but you have thoughts on it, to which no one has discredited because you’re not an educator. My thoughts may not be from a clinical perspective, but I have labored in the healthcare sector, have you taught school?
As a result of my time at Our Lady of the Lake, I understand first hand that you can’t close two emergency rooms and send everyone to facilities further away, and maintain the same level of care that existed when people had more options.
Above all else, I hear the stories of people like Kenya Jarman who went to Our Lady of the Lake just last week. She said she waited 4 hours in the emergency room and never saw a doctor. I know the story of my father, who went to Baton Rouge General Bluebonnet ER, he was in pain and waiting in the ER for hours. When he couldn’t take the pain any longer he at the age of 72 laid on the cold hard floor of the emergency room lobby to try and relieve his pain of sitting and standing while he had back problems, before finally being helped.
Rolfe tried to say that we in north Baton Rouge believe because we pay taxes that we should just get what we are asking for. Well let me put that into perspective as well. North Baton Rouge residents pay taxes, yet we do not get our fair share of the resources that we pay into. Thousands of people in north Baton Rouge pay property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, and more. Yet, when dollars are spent by the state and the local government, north Baton Rouge is last and least. I didn’t see the Business Report cover the fact that East Baton Rouge Parish spent $850 million on the mayor’s greenlight program and north Baton Rouge only got $45 million of those dollars.
So while both Rolfe and Stephanie call it playing the “race card” I am simply stating the facts that there is inequity in our community. Let me not mention how black businesses get less than 1% of the contracts given out to do the work by local and state government. What if the tables were turned? What if black people got 99% of the millions in contracts the city and state give out, would you believe that was fair Rolfe? It is only called playing the race card to distract people from the real truth that Baton Rouge isn’t a progressive city. It is a network of good ol boys and girls that want to keep other communities stuck at go.
North Baton Rouge needs an emergency room. That won’t change because you don’t like it. It won’t change because you get some slanted data and conduct interviews with people who seek to gain from the current monopoly. According to a story done by CNN on hospital ER closures in California, “Emergency department closures generally happen in vulnerable communities, but their ripple effects extend to other hospitals,” said the senior author, Dr. Renee Y. Hsia, an associate professor in the department of emergency medicine and the Institute of Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco.
While many people hearing about an emergency department closing at a hospital that is not where they normally would go may feel relief, Hsia said, “It’s important for people to know that it still does affect them.”
So while local healthcare leaders are painting a picture that all is well in Baton Rouge, no actual data has been tracked to support that. The CNN report went on to say, “The researchers used data from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development as well as other sources to identify 48 hospitals that closed their emergency departments in that state between 1999 and 2010. They then analyzed inpatient deaths among 16 million adult inpatients admitted through emergency departments during the same period.
They found that 4 million of those admissions were to hospitals located near another emergency department that had closed. Patients at the affected hospitals were more likely than patients at unaffected hospitals to be black, Hispanic, female and under the age of 65; they were also more likely to be uninsured or on Medicaid, and to be sicker overall.
Even after adjusting for the different patient and hospital characteristics, however, the researchers found that among inpatients at hospitals affected by an emergency room closure, 5% were more likely to die than patients at other hospitals. The increase in the risk of death for affected adults under 65 was even greater: their risk of dying in the hospital increased by 10% compared with similar patients who were not affected by a closure.
And heart attack, stroke and sepsis patients faced a 15% greater risk of dying in the hospital if there had been a closure nearby, when compared with similar patients at unaffected hospitals.
The researchers said emergency room closures at nearby facilities may contribute to mortality at other hospitals because they increase the distance and travel time to an emergency room, while exacerbating crowding and prolonging waiting times for care. Closures may also cause some patients to postpone seeking care, so that they are in worse shape by the time they arrive at a hospital, Hsia said.”
The question for those speaking on the healthcare issues of north Baton Rouge is that if the data in California is correct, how can it be a myth that there is a need for an emergency room in north Baton Rouge? The truth is, the medical professionals locally have not tracked the impact of the hospitals closure from an honest perspective, the city hasn’t, the Jindal administration didn’t do it, and now a year after the closure of the ER at BRG we don’t know how many lives could’ve been saved had that emergency room still been open. Gov. Edwards has a plan on his desk right now that would allow an emergency room to be opened in north Baton Rouge. Yet because of people like Rolfe and Stephanie he seems to be playing politics.
Lastly, both Rolfe and Stephanie talked about the funding of Champion, yet they see no problem funding yet another urgent care clinic on Florida Blvd. A clinic just down the street from Patient Plus Care Urgent Care Clinic – a private owned urgent care clinic that the Business Report just recently did a feature on. If OLOL comes in right down the street from Patient Plus Care, they are being assisted by the state, which helps them have an advantage over the private small business owner. Rolfe claims to be pro-business. The question is, are you pro-big business or small business, because opening another urgent care clinic that is being assisted by the state hurts the small business owners on Florida Blvd. The truth is, Our Lady of the Lake wants to monopolize this market in healthcare, yet they aren’t promising to increase the quality of care for patients. Opening an ER in north Baton Rouge at Champion allows competition to enter the market as well as helps increase the quality of care, because doctors at the larger facilities won’t be fatigued attempting service every emergency in the parish. This is good for all of Baton Rouge.