- Associated Press - Thursday, August 14, 2014

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - Officials say patients at Lafayette’s University Hospital & Clinics are spending far less time waiting in the emergency room these days and are more satisfied with the care they receive.

Jared Stark, the chief executive officer, touted the hospital’s turnaround since Lafayette General Health took over operations of the public hospital in June through a $15.8 million annual lease agreement with the state.

“We’ve made so many positive changes and affected so many lives,” Stark said.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1uSeb8w ) the public hospital faced several budget cuts prior to the takeover, forcing the closure or reduction of services. In the past year, those services have been reopened or expanded in orthopedics, pediatrics, cardiology, oncology and medical detox.

“We’ve tripled our physician coverage for the oncology unit and recruited Dr. Wendy Dean-Colomb who will train residents and do research here, as well,” Stark said.

Staff at the public hospital had also been reduced to about 500 before Lafayette General Health took over operations. Now, 700 are employed at UHC, Stark said, “so, we’re a major economic force in the community, and we’re proud of that.”

A year ago, a little more than 16 percent of patients who came to the emergency department left without being seen, Stark said.

That rate is now down to 6 percent, while the national average is 2 to 3 percent, he said.

Last June, the average wait time in the emergency room was 155.5 minutes; a year later, it was 79 minutes, according to information provided by UHC.

A study of the times when there was a higher volume of patients led to a staffing adjustments, said Laurence Vincent, UHC chief nursing officer.

Vincent said placement of a nurse practitioner or physician at triage - where emergency room patients are first assessed - has helped expedite patient care.

There are plans to expand the emergency department, pending state bond commission approval. The project has had a spot on the state’s capital outlay budget for the past few years.

The hospital is also a teaching facility in partnership with LSU Health Sciences Center-New Orleans for medical students and new doctors. The partnership has expanded training opportunities for new doctors with Lafayette General Medical Center also now a teaching site. Talks are also underway with LSU about the potential to offer a three-year, medical school program in Lafayette.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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