Earl K. Long hospital staff saddened as closure nears

Earl K. Long hospital staff saddened as closure nears
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POSTED: Sunday, March 17, 2013 - 6:32pm

UPDATED: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 12:59pm

April 15 will be a sad day for Antonia Frazier. 

"Not just for me, for my patients," she said. "We love our patients. All of us become a family here."

Frazier works in the emergency department at Earl K. Long hospital, which will close for good in four weeks.

The shutdown will affect everyone who lives in north Baton Rouge, as well as the people who work there.

"We all just in awe right now," Frazier said of her colleagues. 

Due to a 24 percent budget reduction, LSU Health Care Services Division is transferring its local medical services from Earl K. Long to Our Lady of the Lake next month. Our Lady of the Lake will take over all of LSU's clinics, inpatient/outpatient care, and its graduate medical education program.

Without a hospital between Lane Memorial and Baton Rouge General Mid City, people who need help in north Baton Rouge will have a serious problem getting it.

"We have a lot of patients, elderly patients, who walk here," Frazier explained. "We have a lot of patients who get dropped off and are expected to catch the bus back."

Our Lady of the Lake is setting up an urgent care center on Airline Highway, a block away from Earl K. Long, and says 70 percent of the patients who visit Earl K. Long's emergency room could receive treatment there.

But Frazier believes it is not enough.

"If you have someone that's in a cardiac arrest, all you have put (in) place here is a urgent care center," she said. "Do you actually think, from a medical point of view, that person is actually going to make it to the Lake or Baton Rouge General? It's going to be a lot of lives lost."

Frazier has worked at Earl K. Long for seven years. But she will be one of 800 people out of a job come the 15th. She heard there might be a job for her at the Lake, but she is unsure if she will get it.

"Right now, it's a waiting game. And when you're a single mother, waiting's just not the thing, so I went out on my own and started to look."

Our Lady of the Lake said it opened up 400 new jobs as part of the transition, and got 2,400 applications.

Frazier struggled to answer the question of who or what might be at fault for the decision to close the hospital.

"I blame the economy, (it) has a lot to do with it. Our governor has a lot to do with it. I mean, a lot of the cutbacks that are being made, I think there are ways they could've went around it to just not close the place all of a sudden," she said.

She nearly teared up when thinking about how the working environment at Earl K. Long has deteriorated recently.

"We try to keep our morale up, but it's hard," she acknowledged. "It's hard when you're looking in the background and you have people saying, 'when are y'all closing? When are y'all closing?' I answer the phone: 'are y'all still open?' And that's just a hurting feeling."

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