Lafayette General Health officially joined Ochsner Health on Thursday, officials announced, and the merger will bring a new tower and parking garage for the Lafayette General Medical Center.
With the merger complete, Lafayette General Health will be called Ochsner Lafayette General.
“Our vision is to truly improve the health of Louisianans and people across the Gulf South,” said David Wilson, the chair of the Ochsner Lafayette General Board of Trustees, in a news release. “Ochsner is an organization with a national reputation, but Louisiana roots. They understand our state’s unique health care needs and are committed to advancing care in our region. As one system, we have an opportunity to truly make a positive impact in the lives and health of the people in our state.”
Ochsner investing nearly $100 million in medical center
As part of the merger, Ochsner will be investing $465 million over the next 10 years to expand health care access, technology and employment opportunities. Of that money, $94 million will be spent on the Lafayette General Medical Center, which will now be called the Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center.
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The medical center’s allotment of the funds will be used to construct a new tower with six inpatient floors, adding 48 new adult beds. The project will also expand women’s services, adding 23 new mother/baby beds and 15 NICU beds.
The tower will also have three floors prepared for future growth, which would include 72 additional beds.
David Callecod, the president and CEO of the Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center, said the six new floors will be built onto its surgical platform on South College Road. He said they had potential expansion in mind when the platform was added.
The center also would get a new parking garage with 550 parking spaces for patients and visitors.
Warner Thomas, the president and CEO of Ochsner Health, said the system is committed to keeping patients local, and expanding the medical center gives the system more space for patients. At its current bed capacity, Callecod said, the system has to send about 22 patients each day elsewhere for care.
In addition to increased capacity, Thomas said the expansion would create about 200 permanent jobs and around 125 temporary construction jobs.
Thomas said there could be more expansion of the medical center in the coming years.
“As we go through more planning together, I think you’ll see more commitment to capital in the future,” Thomas said.
Lafayette General recently requested an appraisal of the Heymann Performing Arts Center — which is directly beside the medical center — including information on the building’s condition and any legal hurdles with the donated land.
The land that the performing arts center sits on is about 7 acres of commercial property.
As far back as 2014, local officials pointed at the land as a “logical expansion” for LGH.
Ochsner looking to expand services at other facilities
The press release said the combined system also will be building a new community health center “in an under-served area of Lafayette with a commitment to open more locations in the future.”
Thomas said =the system will be working over the “next couple of years” to identify under-served areas where it can expand its community health center strategy.
In addition to the improvements at the medical center, the Cancer Center of Acadiana would receive 34 outpatient infusion chairs. The money would also build a Center of Excellence building for the expansion of cancer services and neurosciences in the region.
The Ochsner University Hospital & Clinics would receive some facility upgrades, and the merger would give the facility more financial stability — something LGH leaders mentioned as a reason for the merger when it was announced in 2019.
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As a result of the merger, the other facilities in the Lafayette General Health system will update their names and branding, including:
- Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center
- Ochsner Acadia General Hospital – American Legion Post 15
- Ochsner Abrom Kaplan Memorial Hospital
- Ochsner Lafayette General Orthopaedic Hospital – a Lafayette General Medical Center Campus
- Ochsner Lafayette General Surgical Hospital – A Lafayette General Medical Center Campus
- Ochsner St. Martin Hospital
- Ochsner University Hospital & Clinics
A shared commitment to improving health in Acadiana
The merger was in the works for more than a year. The two health systems announced they had signed a letter of intent to merge in September 2019. The Louisiana attorney general’s office approved the merger Sept. 4, 2020.
“We’ve been looking forward to this day for more than a year,” said Andrew Wilson, the chair of the Ochsner Health Board of Directors. “Lafayette General is a terrific health system known for its high-quality care and extraordinary commitment to patients. Ochsner shares those values, and as Ochsner Lafayette General, we can do even more great things together for patients in Acadiana.”
The two medical providers already had a relationship. Lafayette General has been a member of the Ochsner Health Network, an “alliance of health care-focused entities across the greater Gulf South region.”
As part of the merger, Ochsner is creating a $10 million, 10-year Community Support Fund to promote health and wellness across the region and to promote workforce development.
Dr. Amanda Logue, the chief medical officer of Ochsner Lafayette General, said the merger also shows the organization’s commitment to attracting and keeping good, young doctors in Acadiana.
The merger will add about 48 new residency positions at the medical center. Workforce development programs catering to medical assistant careers, as well as a new classroom at the Ochsner Lafayette General Orthopaedic Hospital, will also be part of the investment.
“We feel like we have to build a strong pipeline, not only for our employees, but for those up and coming doctors in training,” Logue said. “We want to harvest the best and have them stay here in Acadiana.”
About $1 million would be invested in the Healthcare Innovation Fund at the Ochsner Lafayette General Foundation to help digital medicine and technology initiatives across Acadiana.
As a result of the merger, the minimum wage for the Lafayette General Health system will increase from $10 to $12 per hour, effective immediately.
Lafayette General Health is the second-largest employer in Lafayette, according to the Lafayette Economic Development Authority, with about 4,500 employees. It’s the largest nonprofit hospital in Acadiana.
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The not-for-profit Ochsner Health System has properties in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas, as well as Mississippi. It has more than 25,000 employees across its system.
Impacts on COVID-19 treatment
Logue said that the two organizations — which were already in the process of merging — became much closer when the COVID-19 pandemic spread to Louisiana in March.
She said Ochsner, which has the Ochsner Medical Center and other facilities in New Orleans, saw many more cases than Lafayette General in the early days of the pandemic. Through their clinical relationship, LGH was able to keep up with the changes Ochsner made to fight the virus.
“We’ve done it in partnership with Ochsner all along,” Logue said.
The information gleaned from Ochsner helped inform LGH’s policies on visitor restrictions and telemedicine, Logue said. She said LGH has also learned from Ochsner about what treatments were working.
Logue said the COVID-19 vaccine trial that will be happening at Ochsner Lafayette General, announced last week, was made available through the system’s connection with Ochsner.
“That’s just an example of a partnership that we weren’t going to be able to do here on our own,” Logue said.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: It’s official: Lafayette General Health is part of Ochsner