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Urgent Care Not Emergency Care

Wallis Watkins

After the nearby charity hospital, Earl K. Long, was shut down, Baton Rouge General’s Mid-City Emergency Room took on more patients. And, in 2013, LSU Health’s Urgent Care Clinic in North Baton Rouge opened. But, the sign on the urgent care clinic’s door reads, “NO EMERGENCY ROOM.”

There were about 20 patients sitting in the waiting room on a recent Thursday afternoon at the North Campus Urgent Care Clinic. The room was mostly quiet, except for the talk show being played on the television.

"We have 10 treatment rooms," says Carolyne LeBlanc, manager of the North Campus Urgent Care. Once a patient is brought in, "we take their vital signs, get their history, their past history -- surgical and medical -- and a provider comes in to see them."

The clinic is staffed with doctors, registered nurses, medical assistants and radiation technicians. They see about 120 patients per day. For the most part, patients are coming in with the flu, a cold, minor sprains or broken bones.

Located on Airline Highway, the clinic is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But it’s not an emergency room.

Stephanie Manson, Vice President of Operations at Our Lady of the Lake, which runs the clinic in partnership with LSU, explains that "if you feel like you’re having a heart attack or stroke, something that might threaten your life, you should go to an emergency room by all means. Anything else in between -- or if you’re not sure, you’re feeling okay but it’s something you want to get checked out -- this is a great place to come.”

The Baton Rouge General’s Mid City emergency room, which saw 45,000 patients last year, is expected to close on March 31. The Department of Health and Hospitals sees these urgent care clinics as one way to fill that ER-void. But in order for that to happen, these clinics will need to expand.

For the North Campus clinic, that means offering CT scans and MRIs later into the evening. "We want to do as much as we can here to avoid a patient having to go to another level of care," says Manson.

The clinic is also preparing to see an increase in patients once the Mid City ER closes.