Hayes joined Baton Rouge General's board of trustees in 2002 and quickly became involved with the safety and quality committee.
“You hear all the time executives say they want to focus on quality,” said Janice Pellar, who took over as board chair in January, though Hayes remains on the board. “Evelyn actually takes the step to make it personal.”
When the hospital adopted Six Sigma for performance improvement, Hayes also took the training, earning a green belt. “She didn't have to do that,” Pellar said. “But it served as an example to everyone that she was serious about quality.”
After Slyter's appointment, Hayes returned to her role as board chair but soon faced another crisis. The hospital's Mid City campus was experiencing a 30% increase in uninsured emergency department visits and a 60% increase in uninsured psychiatric consults. The city's charity-care hospital and dedicated mental-health ED had shut their doors, leaving Mid City as the only inner-city emergency-care facility.
The hospital was spending more than $1 million a month caring for uninsured patients, with projected losses above $20 million for the following year. These were unsustainable numbers for the medical center, which also has a campus across town known as the Bluebonnet campus.
Hayes stressed Baton Rouge General's commitment to the Mid City area. The hospital in 1991 created the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance and continues to provide financial help to longtime employees who buy homes there.
But the situation was untenable and the board made the decision to close the Mid City ED. “We couldn't continue those losses without compromising the entire organization,” Pellar said. “Evelyn just provided a very calm, reasonable voice. But more than that, she was available to people.”
At the 11th hour, the state provided funding, allowing the ED to remain open.
“At that time, Evelyn was just a champion on the board,” Slyter said. “She is very respectful, collaborative, but direct. Certainly no one questions where her heart is. When she speaks, people listen with a great deal of respect.”
Follow Beth Kutscher on Twitter: @MHbkutscher