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Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
Email: arodrigue@wwltv.com | Twitter: @ashleyrwwl

BOGALUSA, La. -- The $8 million emergency room expansion is the most obvious change at Our Lady of the Angels Hospital, other than the name, which transitioned from an LSU hospital in March.

But the difference extends inside, where there are new doctors, many of them specialists, and a new labor and delivery ward. Those are much needed things that years of budget cuts kept the facility from offering the community, which is full of families who can't afford medical care.

'A lot of what we've been doing to date is an assessment of what we have and where we can enhance the patient experience in the delivery model,' said Rene Ragas, COO of the hospital.

The Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System took over the hospital in a public-private partnership with the state to avoid the community losing the hospital all together. Since then, the patient-count has increased monthly.

Visitors say the change in look and attitude is why.

'I think it's great, they're all good here, they nice to me,' Wilson Knight said.

While local lawmakers are pleased with the new operators of the hospital, they're still concerned about the funding for the deals that led to the partnerships.

'The funding mechanism must take place in order to continue the services we have here so all of us are a little concerned about the funding mechanism until we have documentation from CMS that it's been approved,' said state Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa.

CMS is the federal agency that oversees Medicaid funding. It rejected the state's reimbursement methodology plan for the deals in May, so the state turned in a revised one and is awaiting approval.

In the meantime, serving the community better than it had been and getting the word out about that service remains Our Lady of the Angels' top priority.

The new emergency room is expected to be open around Christmas. A response from the federal government is expected by next month.

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