Hospital land purchase advances in West Feliciana

The West Feliciana Parish Hospital’s board of commissioners will soon investigate the suitability of parish-owned property as a location for a new health care facility focusing on outpatient care, the hospital administrator said.

After months of negotiations and a narrow, April 15 purchase agreement rejection, the parish Police Jury voted unanimously Monday to offer an amended agreement to sell the hospital a 7.67-acre tract on Burnett Road.

Hospital Administrator Lee Chastant said the hospital board still has to approve the agreement. The board’s next regular meeting is May 16, but the board may call a special meeting earlier, he said.

If the board accepts the purchase agreement, the hospital will conduct “due diligence” investigations, including environmental and soil testing, “to make sure it’s suitable for our use,” Chastant said.

If the land is deemed satisfactory for a new hospital, the board will go back to the Police Jury to complete the sale, he said.

After early discussions last year about the Police Jury donating the land, the board and jurors agreed in November on a purchase price of $106,000 per acre. Part of the tract is now used as a ballpark and children’s playground.

The purchase agreement calls for the hospital board to assist the jury in removing the playground equipment and ballpark light poles to other locations.

The hospital also agrees to relocate skateboarders’ park improvements if a survey shows the park is in the property to be sold, said Charles Griffin II, the attorney for the Police Jury during the negotiations.

Parish voters last year approved seven-year sales tax extensions for the hospital while also giving the board the authority to issue construction bonds that could be repaid with the sales tax revenues.

At the time, Chastant said the hospital was considering construction of a new hospital costing between $15 million and $22 million.

The health care industry is rapidly evolving toward more outpatient services and procedures, while West Feliciana Hospital was built with hospital beds and little outpatient services, Chastant said.

“The new hospital will be more oriented to outpatient; we’ll still have beds, but we’d like those beds to be even more flexible. For instance, an inpatient bed could be used for IV therapy and converted to inpatient use if necessary,” Chastant said.

“But you wouldn’t have those beds sitting there idle,” he said.

The hospital has looked at the feasibility of adding outpatient surgery.

“We’ll revisit that to make sure the changes in health care won’t change our thoughts. We’ll beef up our imaging department, with MRI and other diagnostic services,” Chastant said.

“Once the sale goes through, we will hire an architect and immediately start working on the design,” he said.

Under the terms of the final purchase agreement, the jury’s access to the adjoining land it is retaining could be changed once the building plan is determined.

“The verbiage gives some flexibility that once the property is laid out with the design of the building, if there would be better access, they (the jury) would use that,” Chastant said.

The agreement also removes some restrictions on the hospital selling the property, but the jury will have the right for 10 years to buy the land and improvements, called the right of first refusal, should the hospital consider selling it to a third party.

Griffin said the jurors did not want to sell the land and have the hospital sell all or part of it for a profit that the Police Jury itself could have made.