Special meeting called on funding for new hospital

DEIDRE CRUSE, Governmental Reporter

Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. is moving ahead with a proposal to build a new hospital in the Plaquemine area, now that the owners of the former River West Medical Center have turned down the parish's offer.

New Parish Council Chairman Matthew H. Jewell of Maringouin has called a special meeting for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Courthouse for the council  to consider changing its application to the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) for hurricane recovery funds to include some $20 million for a 15- to 20-bed facility, including land acquisition, planning and construction.

The parish president said the new hospital would cost an estimated $14 million to $15 million, and equipment would run another $5 million.

LRA officials and representatives of Pan American, the consulting company overseeing the parish's application for federal hurricane recovery money, will attend the special meeting, the parish president said.

Westside Physicians LLC last week rejected the Iberville Parish Council's offer to buy the former River West Medical Center for  the appraised price of $1.05 million.

The physicians initially sought hurricane recovery money for the 80-bed facility, damaged in Hurricane Gustav.

Parish Council officials explored the possibility of buying the hospital, since it might have been easier for the public body to secure the government funding.

Ourso said that under LRA rules, the parish could not offer more than the appraised price to buy the facility, which had been the parish's only operating hospital when it was closed a year ago.

He said he had had no further word from the Westside Physicians since they rejected the offer.