Voters to decide on expansion at St. Charles Parish Hospital

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 17, 2012



LULING – Voters in St. Charles Parish will go to the polls in the spring to decide whether they want the parish-owned St. Charles Hospital to borrow $15 million to build new facilities on both sides of the river, as well as improve current equipment and services.

The parish council recently approved a referendum that would put the request on the April 21 election ballot. The bonds would be repaid with revenue from an existing 3.16-mill property tax used for hospital maintenance. If voters approve, the tax rate would stay the same, but if the money is not borrowed, the tax rate would decrease.

The millage currently adds $7.90 per year to tax bills of residents whose homes are valued at $100,000 with a homestead exemption. That number increases by about $15 for every $50,000 added to the value of a home in the parish, according hospital officials.

Hospital CEO Frederico Martinez Jr., said the hospital is looking to build an after-hours clinic on the east bank, as well as an outpatient medical center and a cardiac catheter lab. Some of the money would also go toward improving ambulance services, equipment and physician practice development.

Martinez said the projects would create as many as 50 permanent full-time jobs, which doesn’t even include the possibility of new physicians being recruited to the community. There would also be an influx of construction jobs as the projects get started.

Martinez told the council the hospital conducted surveys and focus groups last summer and winter with residents throughout the parish to determine needs in the community. He said those who participated said they wanted the hospital to provide a full range of services, even if they did not seek treatment regularly. He said there was also great demand for after-hours services on the east bank of the parish in an area that is closer to home.

“Access to quality care without traveling long distances is important to the older population,” Martinez said.

If approved, the projects would begin in the summer, with all new facilities open by spring 2014.