Medical center’s new parking garage opens Friday

Lafayette General Medical Center announced Thursday the completion of a 343-slot parking garage, part of a two-year, $52.5 million project that includes bigger operating and emergency rooms and a sterilization department.

The project, to bring LGMC to a Level II trauma center designation, began in October 2012 and is scheduled for completion this October.

The six-floor garage, scheduled to open at 4 a.m. Friday, sits between the unfinished hospital addition and the Heymann Center.

“For most people, it’s a welcomed relief,” said David Callecod, medical center president.

The new garage was built to accommodate patients and visitors. It also will alleviate parking problems at the Heymann Center, which, on Saturday, hosts the Lafayette Ballet Theatre’s production of “Sleeping Beauty.”

“Convenience for our patients and visitors is always a major consideration for us,” medical center CEO Patrick Gandy said in prepared statement.

Hospital officials also said the medical center will continue to provide valet parking at the emergency room entrance and the main entrance. Across Coolidge Street, valet parking also will continue at the Burdin Riehl Center.

Next door to the garage on Thursday, employees for prime contractor The Lemoine Group continued working on the hospital’s new section, where, by the end of the year, doctors will work in enlarged confines with better tools.

Construction is well underway on expanded first-floor emergency rooms, said Daryl Cetnar, director of community relations for the medical center.

Big, state-of-the-art operating rooms will inhabit the second floor, he said. And above the second-floor operating rooms, unseen and taking up the space that would make up the third floor, will be equipment needed for surgery, such as electric and air sources. There will be no electric or air lines lying on or suspended off the floor, Cetnar said.

“It’s a tripping hazard. Having cords everywhere is really dangerous,” he said.”

The fourth floor will house the hospital’s sterilization department. Cetnar said two elevators will be used, one to ferry reusable hospital instruments returning from operations and full of germs. The instruments will undergo a cleaning, then will be inspected under ultraviolet light.

When the instruments are needed again, a second elevator brings clean tools to the operating room below.

Callecod said the completion of the garage was milestone in LGMC’s quest to become a Level II trauma center. Level II is the second-highest designation for hospitals.

According to the American College of Surgeons, there are only two hospitals in Louisiana with Level II designation: Rapides Regional Medical Center in Alexandria and Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge. There is only one Level I: Medical Center of Louisiana in New Orleans.

Hospitals rated at Level V are at the lowest level for trauma treatment.

LGMC operates as a nonprofit, community-owned and managed medical center. In 2013, LGMC took over management of the former University Medical Center, which had been part of Louisiana’s charity hospital system.