Advisory Committee: St. John Parish needs hospital-level care

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, February 3, 2016

LAPLACE — St. John the Baptist Parish is in need of hospital-level care.

That was the message delivered to Parish Council members last week by the parish’s Health Advisory Committee.

Committee representative Dr. Fred DeFrancesch said residents need a location where patients can be stabilized, treated appropriately and receive an intensive care type treatment.

“It’s important that we have these high level capabilities so that the public is comfortable with receiving care in this area,” he said. “It ensures that patients can stay in the area and receive that type of care closer to home.”

The Health Advisory Committee’s purpose is to evaluate the parish’s health care needs and advise the St. John the Baptist Parish Council on what those findings are, according to DeFrancesch. He shared those findings Jan. 26.

DeFrancesch said the community needs an upgraded local health facility to better handle catastrophic events, adding today many patients face dangerous transport concerns.

“If patients are unable to be transported to local facilities, it really leaves the residents of the community in a very tenuous situation,” DeFrancesch said. “I’ve witnessed, as I’m sure other people have, ambulances transporting people to the nearest facility in Kenner and getting stuck on the Spillway. That doesn’t serve our residents very well.”

A facility with the isolation capabilities for infectious diseases and the ability to treat and stabilize large-scale trauma issues is needed, he said. DeFrancesch said transporting a patient to a hospital outside of St. John the Baptist Parish could take a minimum of 20 minutes.

“In emergency medicine, there is a golden hour where the first hour of care is essential for someone’s survival and recovery,” DeFrancesch said. “You are losing at least a minimum of a third of that just transporting someone to the nearest facility.”

District 3 Councilman Lennix Madere Jr. said he was “very upset when the hospital closed down.”

“When people have a life-threatening injury, and we have to transport them, like (DeFrancesch) said, to other facilities, time is of the essence,” Madere said. “I think somewhere in the near future, if possible, we need to get another hospital down here.”

Ochsner acquired River Parishes Hospital, now known as Ochsner Health Center – River Parishes, Nov. 1, 2014. The sale was announced Sept. 9, 2014, and in November 2014 David Gaines, senior vice president of public affairs for Ochsner, said sites were being assessed for a possible future location for the facility.

Stephen Robinson Jr., CEO of Ochsner Medical Center – Kenner, told L’OBSERVATEUR in May Ochsner would be investing in a new medical complex as part of its ongoing commitment to the community. A new location has not been announced.

Following the transition in 2014, Ochsner began leading a reduced operation that featured, hospital officials said, cardiopulmonary services, 24-hour emergency care, laboratory services, occupation medicine, outpatient therapy services and radiology services.

During last week’s Parish Council meeting, Parish President Natalie Robottom said at least two entities have expressed interest in building medical facilities in St. John.

The Health Advisory Committee also recommended setting a moratorium on urgent care facilities.

“If they are done right, the urgent cares are a wonderful service to the community,” DeFrancesch said. “But they are kind of the 7-11 of medicine. It’s great to be able to go in and get what you need quickly and easily, but you certainly don’t need one on every corner. To our knowledge, there are two urgent cares in the parish, along with the Ochsner emergency facility.”

With a moratorium on the building of urgent care facilities, the hope is larger facilities, like hospitals, will move to the area.

“To me, really what’s needed is care on multiple levels to ensure that the community is serviced adequately,” DeFrancesch said. “Larger hospitals provide the personnel to provide those cares in an emergency and urgent in fashion.”