New Life on Margaret Place
While the pandemic has shuttered, smothered and slowed many businesses and activities globally, there have been some hot spots of activity: medical centers.
Locally, Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport saw a significant flurry of activity in a fiveweek period. The task was to re-energize the sleeping giant on Margaret Place, the one-million-square-foot former CHRISTUS Schumpert Medical Center.
Last year and the year before, Ochsner LSU had begun revitalizing the campus, moving some clinical services in, such as neurology and neurosurgery. But early this year, the need for ICU beds at the main campus on Kings Highway became a priority.
In those five weeks, plumbers, electricians and other contractors swarmed over the building to get it ready for new patients, new staff and a renewed lease on life. Chris Mangin is senior vice president of operations for Ochsner LSU, and he said the crews literally worked 24/7 to get the building back online.
“If you can imagine if you'd left a house mostly vacant. They kept it clean, and they had maintenance through here. But if you're not flushing toilets every day, and if you're not running sinks every day, there's going to be those sorts of maintenance problems.” Mangin said the crews got the place up and running in remarkable time.
That achievement is also partly responsible for the medical system's announcement that it is projecting the creation of 450 new jobs across north Louisiana in the next year. The system announced openings are expected for clinical fields, including nurses, medical assistants, radiology technicians, respiratory therapy technicians and medical laboratory technicians. Non-clinical positions such as patient access and registration are also available.
Chuck Daigle is CEO of Ochsner LSU Health and System CEO for north Louisiana. He said, “If you combine the Ochsner Health System with Ochsner/LSU, we have over 30,000 team members throughout the state of Louisiana and into Mississippi. You’re talking about a $5 to $6 billion health system. When we started, we had about 2,500 team members [employees]. We're over 4,000 team members, or 4,000 jobs, throughout. We've added over 500 jobs to the marketplace since we started. We’re just scratching the surface right now. The potential is unbelievable in health education, health development, research and taking care of communities throughout Louisiana,” Daigle said.
The Ochsner Health System, LSU Health partnership began in 2018, according to Daigle. “We’ve been in this partnership for 21, 22 months, formed this not-for-profit Ochsner/LSU Health, and we set out with a vision and strategic plan back at the end of 2017 to really build a state-of-the-art health system that focused on health-care delivery throughout north Louisiana. That focused on health and wellness that focused on getting out into the communities to drive health outcomes within the communities. And then to focus on teaching and training to prepare ourselves to continue to and advance upon training the next generation of physicians and clinicians needed in the health-care system. As we in the U.S. have an aging population, more and more health care is needed,” Daigle said.
To ensure that health care remains affordable, Daigle said Ochsner LSU works with Medicare and insurance providers to keep those costs in check. The goal, he said, is to keep health outcomes high and costs low. “Health care and health expenses are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in America. It’s our responsibility through Ochsner and Ochsner/LSU to make sure that our care is affordable.”
Daigle said one way to do that was to educate the public on how to keep themselves out of emergency rooms and acute care facilities by better managing their own health. The system is also working to provide alternatives to going to the main campus to wait to see a physician.
“We’re in the process of opening several primary care centers,” he said. “We’ve opened an Urgent Care Center here in Shreveport, one in Bossier. We’ve got one underway in West Monroe right now. We’ve opened the St. Mary Campus; we have several clinics there: neurology, neurosurgery, gastroenterology. We’ve opened our primary care center on St. Vincent, we’re opening one on Fern Avenue here shortly, and then we’ll open another center on Line Avenue, and we’re looking at additional primary care sites in Bossier.”
In addition to bricks and mortar, Daigle said to deal with the constraints presented by the coronavirus, the system became fluent in telehealth visits in a short period. “At the height of the pandemic, we were doing about 700 to 800 telehealth visits a day. Keeping access to care up. It’s a quicker use of technology for lower acuity office visits. It keeps people healthy and well. It keeps them checking in with their provider. And it saves time and money.”
Daigle said the public is becoming more comfortable with the technology. Their state-of-the-art technology has been widely accepted in the community so that the system believes the telehealth trend is going to continue.
For many Shreveporters, the resurrection of St. Mary Place is like a reunion with an old friend, according to Mangin. “It’s a fantastic place to be. When I tell people where I work, I don’t come across anybody who doesn’t say something like, ‘My mom used to work there,’ or ‘I was born there.' Everybody has been touched by the building and the mission through the sisters who were here for all those years.”
Mangin said the new staff is aware of that history and are intent on carrying on the tradition the building enjoys. “It’s really been nice to see what happened with a good group of people in a place that has such a robust history. They’ve now owned it,” Mangin said. “They’ve made this their place and their home, and they want it to be the best.”
He is confident that when doctors return to St. Mary, the patients will return as well. When they do, they will see many of the old hospital floors open, seeing patients and doing business as usual. The first through fifth floors are currently working while updating and renovations of the other future work areas are ongoing.
“We've got a lot of growth to do, and we just want to do it at the right pace and put things in the right spot,” according to Mangin. “If we do it too fast, we’ll make mistakes. If we put something in the wrong spot, it’s kind of hard to undo. We know that we’re going to add two additional ORs [operating rooms] that will give us a total of eight. We’ll probably (preplan) a couple more to prepare for some more growth down the road. We know that we’re going to grow another entire in-patient unit in the next six to nine months. We know that we’re putting physician clinics in here.”
The Women’s and Children’s Services has already been a busy place. Over 350 babies have been delivered in the two and a half months the facility has been open. To accommodate the arrivals, there are labor and delivery suites, pediatric and neonatal intensive care units. The rejuvenated facility also operates an ambulatory surgery center, four operating rooms, the neurology and neurosurgery clinics, an imaging center, a fully functioning lab and a fully functioning pharmacy.
Tina Martinez is the regional director of communication for the Ochsner LSU System. She added that the Fairfield Building, which is connected to the main building by walkways, has the gastroenterology services, a sleep center and a multi-surgery specialty unit. On the Olive Street side, there are orthopedics and sports medicine.
Mangin said, "Not only the building itself, but the campus in general has come to life with all of the different medical activities that we have going on."
If you are one of the many thousands who were born or treated in the old building, seeing the activity is a welcome bright spot in the Covid murk.
"It's nice to see people here," Mangin said. "I know the building appreciates being occupied again, even though it kicks back at me every once in a while. I think the building is happy to have people in it. I know that people who come by are happy. I wouldn't say the heart of Shreveport is in this building, but a whole lot of hearts were born in this building."