West Feliciana celebrates grand opening of new hospital
ST. FRANCISVILLE – A new era in healthcare arrived in West Feliciana Parish in October when the new West Feliciana Hospital opened.
“This hospital represents a migration from the old building and the way health care used to be in the 1970s to the new building and what health care is in the 21st century,” said CEO Lee Chastant, who oversaw the ambitious construction project. “Health care has evolved 180 degrees, from keeping patients overnight or for short periods of time in the hospital to diagnosing them and treating them and getting them home as quickly as possible.
The 53,000-square-foot facility, almost three times the size of the old hospital that was built in the 1970s, took just over a year and a half to construct with a budget of just under $28 million. It is built on 12 acres behind the existing hospital on the 19-acre medical campus. It can be accessed either from Commerce Street or Burnett Road.
Not only is the new hospital more spacious, it offers 12 modern in-patient rooms, allowing for more space for the Emergency Department and Outpatient Services. “What we do now, in the most basic form is to provide support for our community’s physicians and healthcare professionals,” Chastant said. “We do this by diagnosing and treating their patents, so we play a support role.”
He said technology has played a central role in that evolution, with diagnosis and treatment using state-of-the-art equipment. “It’s a new level of care, a much higher quality of health care with services and programs equal to or superior to what they can get anywhere else,” said Chastant. “It’s conveniently located close to home so they don’t have to travel a long way. It’s now available to them here in St. Francisville.”
One of the most dramatic improvements is the Imaging Department. Before, trailers with imaging equipment would come to the hospital’s campus only a few days per month. Now those services are available as needed.
Another example, the new hospital will offer 3-D mammography through an innovative partnership with Woman’s Hospital. The 3-D mammograms produce clearer, more precise images that allow doctors to diagnose abnormalities at the earliest stages. After mammograms are taken locally, the results are sent electronically to Woman’s where they’re read by two radiologists. Any follow-up care will be available through Woman’s.
“Woman’s Hospital brings a lot to the table with their expertise that allows us to leap frog where we were in terms of services for our patients,” Chastant said.
A new Hitachi 128-slice CT scanner, one of only two in the entire Baton Rouge region, as well as an MRI machine designed to help alleviate claustrophobia are available. Also available is digital radiology, ultrasound and echocardiograms. Radiation exposure is reduced by up to 75 percent less with the new equipment and it’s monitored in the patient’s chart over time.
Nearly one third of the hospital’s space is devoted to the Emergency Department. It includes a private triage area, six exam rooms and two trauma rooms utilizing the most advanced equipment. It also has a separate check-in area and waiting room.
The hospital continues to offer telestroke capability, meaning local ER doctors can consult with specialists anywhere when seconds count.
In addition, The American College of Cardiology has recognized West Feliciana Hospital for its demonstrated expertise and commitment in treating patients with chest pain, recently awarding full Chest Pain Center accreditation. This recognition was based on rigorous onsite evaluation of the staff’s ability to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who may be experiencing a heart attack.
West Feliciana is the first critical access hospital in Louisiana to receive this accreditation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 730,000 Americans suffer a heart attack each year. The most common symptom of a heart attack for both men and women is chest pain or discomfort.
Besides upgrades to its imaging capabilities, a wide spectrum of laboratory services are also available with quicker wait times. Other amenities include conference rooms and classrooms for community education, private family consulting areas, a non-denominational chapel and an upgraded cafeteria.
The new facility was designed by Curtis Group Architects of Dallas and Grace and Hebert Architects of Baton Rouge. It was financed with a $17.75 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an $8 million loan from Investar Bank and $2 million from hospital reserve funds.
According to the National Rural Health Association, critical access hospitals are vulnerable nationwide due to federal and state budget cuts to health care. Since 2010, 79 have closed and another 673 facilities – nearly a third of the nation’s CAH hospitals — are vulnerable and could close in the near future.
“We have to be cognizant of that trend and be good stewards with the services we provide,” said Chastant, who manages an annual $22 million operating budget. He said after the new hospital is open, he’ll look to add specialties that are convenient for area citizens. Repurposing the old hospital is also on his to-do list.
“We want to develop our medical campus to meet the health care needs of our community for another 40 years into the future,” Chastant said. “We will continue to do our best to provide the programs, services and facilities that will make West Feliciana a premier healthcare destination.”