American Legion Hospital board discusses health unit with Police Jury
By Howell Dennis
A meeting was held Monday morning at American Legion Hospital to discuss the proposed building of a health unit/trauma center which would be capable of withstanding hurricane force winds and would remain open in case of such an emergency.
The meeting was attended by members of the American Legion Board of Directors, the Acadia Parish Police Jury and a few members of the hospital’s personnel.
“I’d like to thank every for coming this morning,” said American Legion Chairman of the Board Andy Barousse. “What we need from you are any ideas or opinions on how we can get this done.”
“What is at issue here is the public outcry after last year’s hurricanes forced us to shut down the hospital leaving several people having to drive to Lafayette and our hospital being evacuated,” said American Legion’s CEO Terry Osbourne. “The idea behind this is to have a building that would be hurricane proof and would remain open 24-7 throughout any storm. Our building was built to withstand winds of up to 100 miles per hour.After Katrina and Rita the state came up with some elaborate plans on when and where to move patients. That’s why we were moving our patients on a sunny day last year before the storms. The 45 minutes between here and Lafayette could mean the difference between a patient living or dying.”
Some members of the police jury had questions regarding the funding of the project but all seemed to be in agreement that such a center was necessary.
“We do have to provide health care for the people of Acadia Parish,” said A.J. Credeur. “We have been discussing this project for some time now and it’s time we move on it.”
Juror John Quebedeaux was worried about spending public money on the project.
“When I was elected to this office we needed a new health unit and that’s undisputed, however, you are a private hospital and in this case we’d be using public money on private property,” stated Quebedeaux. “I’m uncomfortable with that and so are my constituents . . . are you asking the police jury to save American Legion Hospital?”
“No that’s not true,” stated Osbourne. “The hospital is financially sound. We are in the black. This is a result of people complaining about the fact that we had to close down during the hurricanes. We’re not asking you help us save American Legion Hospital, we’re asking you to help us save lives.”
“I believe what you would like from us is to contact FEMA or another government entity to help with the funding of the project,” said juror A.J. Credeur.
The 100-year lease that has been mentioned at previous police jury meetings was brought up.
“The 100 year lease was just an idea from Andy Barousse, what we need is your advice on how we can get this done,” said American Legion board member and local attorney Steve Stefanski.
The location of where the center would be built still seems to be undecided as the group discussed the sensitivity of where the city limits begin and end.
In the end, it was decided that Stefanski would draft a letter to send to the Attorney General’s office that would be presented at the next police jury meeting.
“So the first step is for us to get the letter together for approval,” said Mike McBride with the hospital’s board of directors.
“What I would just like to see is for all of us to work together on this so we can make it happen,” stated Barousse.