New St. James Hospital dazzles visitors with new facility

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Editor and Publisher

LUTCHER – The parking lot was packed, the tour guides were busy, and St. James Hospital CEO Mary Ellen Pratt had a big smile all day long.

That was the scene on Saturday here in Lutcher where the new St. James Hospital finally greeted the public, with an open house before the official start of services to the public on Tuesday, April 15.

“People have been calling and asking for months when we were going to open,” Pratt said. “They’ve been very anxious to see this new facility, and today we had nothing but positive comments about it.”

Not that it was any surprise to Pratt, or the many people who had a hand in the open house, especially after walking through the beautiful new hospital.

The new St. James Hospital, only the second one built in St. James since the original had been constructed over 50 years ago in 1955, is a thing of beauty for that community to behold. But Pratt said it is very clear that the hospital did not come about due to the work of a handful of people.

“The truth is that this hospital is here because the community helped this to happen,” she said. “And of course we have had a great board of directors who knew it was time for this. We have got great strength on the staff at our hospital, and the vision of our board to bring this about, is how you get something like this done.”

While the 20 bed facility will continue similar in size to the original St. James Hospital down the street, the biggest difference is a lot of advanced technology that will improve services.

Even though the actual number of beds is barely different, the new hospital is approximately twice the square footage of the first one, coming in at 55,000 square feet in the $20 million facility. That additional size is seen in almost every area, with much expanded square footage in many areas, particularly the emergency room, operating room and more.

Pratt said there is state-of-the-art digital technology in the radiology department, which will send immediate results to doctors, as will be the case for about 90 percent of all the blood work that is done there.

The physical therapy room on site is now many times bigger than the previous one, and a 16-slice CT scanner offers yet another new feature for the hospital.

But perhaps one of the features which has impressed most people is that all 20 beds are in private rooms, and all of them have new style chairs in the rooms that turn into sofa-type beds for relatives needing to spend the night in the room with a patient.

And a warm touch is felt from the front of the hospital throughout the rooms, and beautiful art is hung everywhere, with all of it being from talented, local artists.

“St. James Hospital is geared to be a great place to handle all your basic needs for a community this size,” Pratt said. “And we are certainly more capable than ever to do that now.”

The next challenge for Pratt and the staff is moving the old hospital over, which begins this coming weekend.

“People keep asking me, ‘how do you move a hospital?’” Pratt asked with a laugh. “All I say is that we do it carefully, but we do have a plan. We start with clinical stuff that weekend before and take it a step at a time.”

As for the old hospital, Pratt said the board plans to sell it, and they already have “a lot of interest.”

 The St. James Behavioral Hospital already leases a portion with 10 beds, and could be expanding, due to the serious need for more mental health assistance in the region and the state.

“And we have some interest from other groups, with our hope that it continue as an expansion of health care in some fashion for this community,” she added.