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|Bremer elaborates on changes at St. Francis Medical Center|
St. Francis Medical Center currently is involved in several consolidation efforts, which hospital officials say will provide better service to patients and reduce operational expenses.
Beginning Aug. 1, surgical services at St. Francis North will be moved to the downtown campus.
St. Francis Medical Center officials determined it was not feasible to offer inpatient and outpatient surgery services at the north Monroe campus.
Also, after discussions with medical staff and cardiologists, St. Francis officials determined it was not feasible to offer inpatient and outpatient cardiac cath services at the north Monroe campus.
St. Francis is in the process of replacing a cardiac cath lab at the downtown campus. The north Monroe campus will continue to offer cardiac cath lab services until the downtown lab is operational, probably sometime in October.
The hospital also will move pediatrics and the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit to the downtown campus by October.
St. Francis president and CEO Louis Bremer Jr. recently spoke to The Ouachita Citizen about changes at St. Francis' two facilities in Ouachita Parish. He said the changes would cause some staff to be relocated, but hospital officials do not foresee any layoffs.
"Our goal from the very beginning of this is to avoid a layoff," Bremer said. "We continue to have that as a goal, and we're pretty optimistic that's going to happen and we're not going to do a layoff. Job preservation is one of the things we've tried to focus on throughout this."
"We've got healthcare reform coming down at some point and the state is doing some pretty draconian cuts right now on health care, so who knows what the future will hold, but relative to layoffs associated with this particular endeavor, they are not in the works at all," Bremer explained. "We're moving the cases, as well as the people, downtown. Basically, we're trying to get a little more streamlined and a little more efficient, and that involves moving these services to the downtown campus. We think that ultimately will allow us to better serve the patients."
"We have a lot more doctors in the downtown area, particularly specialists, that you don't have in the north Monroe area," Bremer added.
The north Monroe campus will continue to house the Kitty DeGree Breast Health Center. The north Monroe campus also will continue to house St. Patrick's Psychiatric Hospital's patients.
The emergency room at north Monroe also may become more of an urgent care center, Bremer said.
"It will stay an emergency room for the time being, and assuming we make the decision to covert it to urgent care, we will adequately notify the public," Bremer said. "The real difference between the two is an emergency room is better equipped to handle the serious cases."
"Typically what would happen in an urgent care center, if you get a trauma victim who comes in, they have the ability to get them stabilized and then they would transfer them. In our case, they would be transferred downtown," he said.
The decision regarding north Monroe's emergency room also should be made by October, according to Bremer.
Regarding the possible emergency room changes, Aimee Kane, St. Francis Medical Center's director of corporate communications and physician relations, said, "We want to take this campus here and focus on what provides the right kind of services for those in this area. People want something fast where they don't have to come into town. They want to be able to see a doctor or come after hours with their child. It's not an emergency room, but it's a complete visit, and it's much more affordable."
Bremer said many cities have urgent care centers that are not linked to any hospital.
"Urgent care here will be linked to downtown, so if a patient does come in, and they are having a heart attack or a stroke or something that really is significant, we will get them transported downtown very quickly," he said. "The urgent care center would be an extension of the downtown emergency room."
St. Francis officials began talking about changes last year, Bremer said. He said hospitals over the past several years have faced significant financial challenges and medical centers are looking at ways to become more efficient.
"We knew that our operations as a whole were inefficient," Bremer said. "Several things have happened. The economy as a whole went into the tank, so that made financial situations even worse. Combine that with what's going on in our own local market - State Farm shut down a few years ago, along with the Guide plant, and International Paper, and that all had an effect.
"The volumes have been declining for a number of years. But, part of the problem is this community as whole has too many hospitals and too many hospital beds. Normally you would go into a community this size and you would not find near the number of hospitals we have here. That tends to dilute things out and that makes it more difficult to make things work. At the end of the day, we decided the best thing from a quality, financial and service perspective was to do what we are doing now."
From a financial standpoint, Bremer said there are costs at both campuses that are being duplicated. When patients are moved to the downtown campus, that will eliminate any duplicative costs, Bremer said.