Voters get first chance to decide fate of new ER on March 21
Hospital seeks to borrow $11.5 million to refinance existing bonds, build 9,200-square-foot emergency room
Early voting on the issue begins on March 21 and will continue from March 23 through March 28. Voting will take place from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. at the courthouse for residents on the West Bank and at the Artebury Building for those on the East Bank.
The proposal does not involve increasing the hospital’s current bond millage tax rate of 2.46 mills.
The hospital will use $6.3 million to refinance bond debt. The balance of $5.2 million will be used to build a new emergency department and fund other supportive departments and equipment, including ambulance units.
The emergency department, estimated to be 9,200-square-feet (which is more than three times the size of the current unit), would cost around $2.6 million.
Last year, the hospital’s six-bed emergency room registered close to 12,000 patients, with around 76 percent of them coming from within the parish.
Because of the size of the emergency room, Karen Guillot, the hospital’s Chief Operating Officer, said that the average wait time at the emergency room is around 30 minutes, but can stretch to an hour or an hour and a half depending on the circumstances. Because of those wait times, the hospital says that 4 percent of its registered patients leave before seeing a doctor.
According to the Health Care Advisory Board, demand for emergency care has surged over the past decade while the total number of emergency departments in the United States has declined. That’s mainly due to hospital closures and mergers.
Fred Martinez, the hospital’s Chief Executive Officer, said that southern Louisiana has been hit particularly hard by hospital closures in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He also said that the rising number of uninsured citizens across the country, as well as the dwindling number of psych units, has played a big part in the increased visits emergency rooms are currently experiencing.
Besides being larger, Martinez has said that the new emergency department would be designed to eliminate hurdles with getting patients to emergency beds, create multifunctional treatment spaces to increase flexibility and build out alternative care settings to divert patients who do not require emergency care.
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