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State: BR General will get money to keep ER open

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana's health department said Wednesday it will provide $18 million to keep Baton Rouge General Hospital's Mid-City emergency room open, and hospital officials said they have canceled plans to close the ER on Nov. 1.

The hospital said Tuesday that it would have to shut down the emergency room because it has been getting so many uninsured patients since LSU's Earl K. Long Medical Center was closed that it was losing $1 million a month.

"We began this day with heavy hearts, but now move forward with optimism and tremendous gratitude," hospital President and CEO Mark Slyter said in a news release Wednesday.

The money will come from a combination of Medicaid and uninsured care, with $7.2 million of the total from state funds, said Calder Lynch, chief of staff for the Department of Health and Hospitals. Lynch spoke to The Associated Press by telephone from Baton Rouge.

The hospital's medical director, Dr. Floyd Roberts, told The Advocate (http://bit.ly/1qxcNry ) the Mid-City emergency room has seen nearly 400 additional uninsured patients a month, up 30 percent. He says uninsured psychiatric visits are up 60 percent and surgery on uninsured patients is up 70 percent.

Earl K. Long Medical Center was shuttered as part of Gov. Bobby Jindal's efforts to privatize the charity hospital care that was provided by LSU.

Private managers have taken over several university hospitals around the state, but in Baton Rouge, the hospital was closed and its services shifted to a private hospital, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, across town and a long drive for many people who previously relied on Earl K. Long.

Lynch said the health department is working on long-term solutions, including working to get people to use urgent care clinics and other facilities rather than emergency rooms when that's appropriate. A clinic set up by Our Lady of the Lake got 33,000 visits last year — more than the 28,000 who came to Earl K. Long's emergency room during its final year, he said.

Lynch said that in July 2013, the state increased Baton Rouge General's Medicaid reimbursement, and earlier this summer it provided $5 million for uninsured patients.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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