Earl K. Long hospital to close in April

BATON ROUGE (AP) — LSU is moving up the date it will close Earl K. Long Medical Center in north Baton Rouge.

LSU System Executive Vice President Frank Opelka said Thursday the facility will close in mid-April instead of November as originally planned.

Patient care and medical education programs are moving under an agreement to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, part of a privatization plan that Opelka said will shrink state costs.

Opelka made the comments after he, state Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein and LSU System President William Jenkins appeared before a state House committee. They used the occasion to update lawmakers on negotiations involving private operation of other LSU facilities.

Employees are being notified in accordance with state Civil Service rules, said Opelka, who is in charge of LSU’s 10 public hospitals.

When the Earl K. Long closes, the emergency department will move into modified space at a clinic nearby until an urgent care center, which is under construction on the same property, is finished later this year, Opelka said.

Opelka also notes that too many employees are leaving Earl K. Long and other hospitals where public-private partnerships are under negotiation. Efforts are under way to get the agreements finalized sooner to create a more certain job picture, he said.

Agreements are in development with private nonprofit hospitals for lease arrangements for operating four other LSU hospitals in Lafayette, New Orleans, Houma and Lake Charles. The private hospitals are going to need those employees who already work there as they take over, Opelka said.

“Partners are keen on keeping all employees in the partnership,” he told the House Health and Welfare Committee.

Opelka said the seven LSU hospitals in south Louisiana have experienced a serious drop in employees since July 2011 when there were about 6,700 employees. Now there are 5,400 employees, he said.

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