Riverland Medical Center eyes new location

Published 12:05 am Thursday, July 28, 2016

FERRIDAY — The Riverland Medical Center board has voted to enter into negotiations with a property owner for the proposed site of a new parish hospital.

The approximately 20-acre lot in question is owned by Dan Renfro and is located across U.S. 84 from Camelot Nursing Home and is near Marsala Beverage.

The vote, which was taken at a board meeting Tuesday evening, was not surprising. The board had previously advertised its intention to do so in June, though the meeting where it would have happened had to be canceled because not enough board members were present.

The board also voted to engage a bond attorney and an architecture firm for the project.

Still, the project is far from breaking ground at the proposed location.

“All of this is preliminary to get our application in with the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” Board Chairman Jim Graves said. “Before we actually pull the trigger on this, we still have to go to the police jury to get approval.”

The location was chosen in part based on feasibility studies the hospital commissioned, Graves said.

“We are trying to capture some of the business that is leaving town, the stuff that is going to Jackson and Baton Rouge, and all of the studies told us to put it there, that it would be the optimum spot,” he said.

“We will have something brand new, and you won’t have to go to Alexandria or Baton Rouge.”

A USDA, low-interest loan will ultimately fund the project, Graves said. The hospital has an estimated price tag of $35 million.

As a rural critical access hospital, Riverland is reimbursed its expenses by the federal government, and Graves said the board estimates approximately $30 million of the project would be reimbursed.

Riverland Medical Center Administrator Billy Rucker did not return a phone message for comment Wednesday.

Discussion of a new hospital facility — or at least significant renovations to the current Riverland facility — began in August 2014 when doctors approached the hospital administration about what could be done to improve it in the future.

The hospital had a feasibility report conducted by the LaPorte group of Metairie, but hospital officials said it was too vague and did not take into account the consolidation of the Natchez hospitals when looking at the local health care market.

Stroudwater Associates provided a second feasibility study, which was publicly discussed with the Concordia Parish Police Jury earlier this year.

Among its findings were that 44 percent of Concordia Parish residents used the hospital in some capacity in the last year, and that 85 percent of those polled said they want a new hospital.

RMC opened in 1964 as Concordia Parish Hospital. It is partially funded through a one-fourth-of-one-percent sales tax.