Construction at Ochsner Baptist Will Bring Women’s Health Services to New Orleans

23 April 2013

As Woodward’s construction activity continues to progress at the Ochsner Baptist Medical Center on Napoleon Avenue, Ochsner Health System prepares to move its primary women’s health services to New Orleans. The move will include labor and delivery, among other women’s health services, allowing Ochsner patients to give birth in Orleans Parish. As Ochsner CEO Warner Thomas put it, “We are going to bring babies back to Baptist.” Woodward is scheduled to complete construction by the end of 2013.

Ochsner Moves Women's Services to Ochsner Baptist Hospital in New Orleans

The Times-Picayune

16 April 2013

By Laura Maggi, | The Times-Picayune

Ochsner Health System announced Tuesday it plans to move its primary women’s health services, including labor and delivery, from its main campus on Jefferson Highway to its Baptist hospital in Uptown New Orleans. Construction is underway at the hospital on Napoleon Avenue, with the new center expected to be open by the end of this year.

The $40 million project will put back into service floors that haven’t been in use since Ochsner purchased the hospital in 2006 from Tenet Healthcare Corp. The hospital – then known as Memorial Medical Center – took on water after the storm, eventually becoming a symbol of the inadequate government response as medical personnel struggled to care for ill patients in punishing conditions. Forty-five people perished in the flooded hospital.

Ochsner will build out a clinical area for obstetric and gynecological care, as well as expanding hospital-based services. The neonatal intensive care unit, where premature babies receive care, will move to Baptist, along with specialists who treat women going through high-risk pregnancies.

The move puts Ochsner in more direct competition with Touro Infirmary, also a non-profit hospital based in Uptown. Touro delivers more babies than any other hospital in the metropolitan area. A Touro spokeswoman declined to comment about Ochsner’s plans.

Touro, which delivered 3,069 babies in 2012, has been heavily marketing its birthing center around New Orleans, noting that it is currently the only hospital in the city where babies are delivered. Touro has been undergoing its own construction, including a new neonatal intensive care unit that will open later this month.

“We are going to bring babies back to Baptist,” said Ochsner CEO Warner Thomas at a news conference.

Thomas said shifting labor and delivery would open up 100 more beds at the Ochsner Medical Center main campus, which is currently at capacity. About 300 jobs will move to the Baptist hospital, which will expand from 83 beds to 125 beds.

For women who don’t want to come into New Orleans to give birth, Ochsner will continue to deliver babies at the system’s Kenner, West Bank, and north shore hospitals. But Dr. Alfred Robichaux, chairman of Ochsner’s obstetrics and gynecology department, said focus group research suggests few women harbor such concerns.

“We heard women saying they wouldn’t come to Jefferson Parish because they wanted their birth certificate saying their baby was born in Orleans Parish,” Robichaux said.

Ochsner’s entire hospital system, including the medical center in Baton Rouge, delivers an average of 6,000 babies annually. About 2,200 babies are born each year at the main campus. The expanded capacity at Baptist means an additional 1,000 women could end up delivering at the facility, Robichaux said.

As part of the project, Ochsner will be expanding services for women who want to go through natural childbirth, including a larger availability of midwives and amenities like birthing tubs. Robichaux said these services have been popular in Baton Rouge. Byron Harrell, president of Baptist Community Ministries, which was endowed when Mercy + Baptist Medical Center was sold in 1995, said the non-profit foundation will donate $1 million to the new NICU at the hospital.

Both Harrell, who ran the hospital before it was sold to Tenet, and Kenneth Pickering, a longtime board chairman, harked back to the hospital’s darkest days following Katrina.

The hospital lost power, including back-up generators, which contributed to the death of some patients. A doctor and two nurses were accused by the Louisiana attorney general of euthanizing several patients, but the charges were rejected by a grand jury.

Harrell noted that the hospital has gone through a number of challenges since it first opened in 1926.

“I mark this particular moment as a moment when this facility emerges from one of those challenges,” he said. “One of those challenges that the world took note of. And I hope the world takes note of this rebirth.”

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