New Plaquemines Medical Center to become “standard for rural medical centers”Jul 31st, 2012 | By Jessica Gonzalez | Category: top story
Hospital Service District board members, as well as representatives from FEMA and GOHSEP ceremoniously broke the ground on the site of the future Plaquemines Medical Center July 25. From left is District 9 board member Tony Frickey, GOSEPH Director of Operations James Clark, District 3 Hospital Board member Mary Ann Braud, Hospital Service District Chairman Jimmy Cappiello, District 8 board member Bonnie Thomas, District 4 board member Mena Marinovich, and Executive Director for FEMA’s Louisiana Recovery Office Joe Threat.
The highly-anticipated Plaquemines Medical Center is one step closer to becoming a reality for parish residents. An official Groundbreaking Ceremony at the Port Sulphur construction site was held on July 25, and not even the brutal afternoon heat could stifle the enthusiasm and excitement of all in attendance.
“It’s truly a happy day for me and the board,” said Chairman of the Hospital Board Jimmy Cappiello. “It took a long time but we’re finally on the road.”
Cappiello and Director of Administration Janice Acosta thanked the board, FEMA, and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency (GOHSEP) for getting the project moving in the right direction.
“The hospital board has worked tirelessly to get us where we are today,” said Acosta. “The truly monumental day will be when we all stand in front of those doors and cut that big red ribbon.”
Acosta–who like many long-time Plaquemines Parish residents was born at the old Port Sulphur Hospital–said it was wonderful to see a state-of-the-art facility being built to replace a structure that was so significant to so many.
“Nearly 3/4 of Plaquemines Parish residents were either born here or used the old facility in some way,” Acosta stated.
According to Medical Director Dr. Michael Kotler, the new 44,000 square foot facility will be a multidisciplinary center, offering many services and features that the old facility did not have. Kotler explained that some of these will include CT scans, 24 hour short stay beds, and a hospital-class lab.
Among other services offered will be mental health, OBGYN, eye & dental services, as well as pediatric care. The roof of the medical center will house a lighted helipad, which Kotler said will make “stabilization faster and more efficient.”
“This facility will become the standard for rural medical centers,” he affirmed.
Kotler, and Councilchair Byron Marinovich both noted that the facility is important not only to nearby residents, but to those working offshore. The temporary facility is currently the only place for urgent care from Venice to Gretna, and Hospital Chairman Cappiello says the facility doesn’t provide enough room for doctors to comfortably do their jobs.
Furthermore, officials say that having a larger, medically and technologically advanced facility will encourage businesses and individuals to come invest in Plaquemines Parish.
“I think it’s going to be an economic boom for everyone– for residents and those offshore,” said Marinovich. “I think we’ll really start to see industry grow once we get this built.”
Joe Threat, Executive Director for FEMA’s Louisiana Recovery Office, commended the people of Plaquemines Parish for their dedication to seeing their homeland flourish, despite the bureaucratic hurdles and obstacles that have arisen on the bumpy road to recovery.
“You all are some tough folks down here,” said Threat. “The best part of my job is to come out here for ribbon cutting and groundbreakings, to talk to the community and see what you’ve been through.”
Threat explained that much of the project’s initial delays were a result of “bureaucracy and politics”.
“I am not a politician– my office does heavy construction,” Threat said. “Nobody has ever done this before–when you lose everything its tough coming back.”
Construction on the project is expected to be completed in January 2014, and although there is still much work to do, the groundbreaking ceremony was, in District 6 Councilman Burghart Turner’s words, “a clear sign that its happening.”
District 4 Hospital Board Member Mena Marinovich is hoping the new medical center, along with the parish’s new schools set to open this fall “will give people the courage to come back.”
She summed up the past seven years of recovery and rebuilding efforts with a concise metaphor: “After Katrina hit, the parish was like a puzzle that just broke apart, and this is the heart of the puzzle.”