Oschner Health Center holds ground-breaking

PETER SILAS PASQUA ppasqua@postsouth.com
A ground-breaking ceremony was held for a new Oschner Health Center in Iberville Parish on Tuesday morning. Construction of the facility is expected to completed by August 2014. 
POST SOUTH PHOTO/Peter Silas Pasqua

PLAQUEMINE – Construction on a new medical facility in Iberville Parish officially began on Tuesday with a ground-breaking ceremony for an Oschner Health Center located off La. 1 across from the Plaquemine Truck Stop.

"I can see light at the end of the tunnel," Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso said. "I guess it is directed towards us. They sent me on a mission to save our hospital and I never quit."

Ourso said the construction project is expected to take 430 days with a target date for opening in August 2014.

"You will find that this is going to be one of the finest facilities in south Louisiana," Ourso said. "Plaquemine has a long history of a medical community. They liked this site and it made it real easy."

The parish has been without a hospital since 2008, when River West Medical Center closed after being heavily damaged by Hurricane Gustav.

"Not only has it been saved but it will be a better than ever facility we will all be very proud of," Iberville Chamber of Commerce director Hank Grace said.

The new 43,000-square-foot medical center, designed by Grace & Hebert Architects and operated by Ochsner Health System, is being built by Lincoln Builders on 27 acres.

The parish is using its $22 million share of Hurricane Gustav recovery money from the Louisiana Office of Community Development to finance the project.

"It has been long and winding but that makes this especially sweet," LOCD executive director Patrick Forbes said. "This is one of those communities that said we must have a hospital here for it to viable."

The land was sold by the E.J. Gay Planting & Manufacturing Company, which also provided property for the City of Plaquemine's new sewer treatment plant and the Westside Campus of the Capital Area Technical College.

"In all three of these instances, our company's board of directors voted unanimously to sell land in order to better our community," said John Gay.

Ochsner Health System owns and operates seven hospitals and more than 38 health centers throughout the state.

The Iberville medical complex will feature 24 patient exam/procedure rooms, two of which will be trauma rooms, and lab and radiology services that will include X-ray, CAT scan, MRI, ultrasound and mammography.

"It is a fantastic facility," Oschner Health System CEO Eric McMillen said. "We are happy to be apart of this community and look forward to a long relationship."

The complex will have seven health care providers, including three primary care physicians, a nurse practitioner or physician's assistant, an OB/GYN or certified nurse midwife and two rotating specialists on site at the clinic,

"None of this gets done without all of the pieces of the puzzle," State Rep. Karen St. Germain said. "Our community called us everyday because residents were relying on people at the hospital."

Father Cleo Milano of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church gave the opening prayer and Rev. Karen Gray of Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion gave the closing prayer.

Cake and refreshments were served following the ground-breaking, which included commemorative shovels and hard hats.