Voters will decide fate of ‘critical’ hospital tax

On Saturday, voters will decide whether or not to renew a St. Charles Parish Hospital tax that will generate $2.6 million per year and allow the addition of a third ambulance shift during peak service hours. Officials say funds from the renewal would also support an expanded emergency room, operations of a recently unveiled cardiac catheterization lab and operating expenses of an urgent care center in Destrehan now under construction.

By renewing the tax, which has been in place for more than three decades, the owner of a $200,000 home will continue to pay $31 a year to support those hospital services. If voters approve the measure, the 2.48 mills would be extended for 10 years.

Third ambulance shift will be added to reduce response time

Federico Martinez, CEO of the hospital, said there are now two ambulances on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but the hospital would like to add a third ambulance shift during peak service hours to reduce response time.

The current average response time meets national standards, but the hospital receives about 430 calls per month.

While two ambulances are always in service for emergency transport, Martinez said the hospital must use its other three ambulances for events such as high school football games, festivals and hurricanes.

“For hurricane preparedness we have all five up and running, especially when it comes to moving bedridden patients out of St. Charles,” he said.

The funds from the renewal would also help with the purchase and maintenance of the ambulances, which must be replaced every three years.

The ambulances will also transport more patients to Luling due to a cardiac catheterization lab that opened inside St. Charles Parish Hospital this month. The $2.4 million cath lab allows the hospital to treat several heart conditions for the first time, including heart attacks.

“About a third of the (ambulance) runs we respond to have to go to other hospitals primarily because we didn’t have the services available, like the cath lab. Now we have the cath lab and not long ago we didn’t have the capability to handle a stroke, but now we do,” Martinez said.

When an ambulance arrives at the scene of a trauma, heart attack or stroke, EMTs must contact the Louisiana Emergency Response Network. Operators will then tell the EMTs which hospital their patient needs to be transported to.

“On a real-time basis they have a computer that has all the hospitals in Louisiana listed and what the capability is at that point in time. To handle a stroke you need a stroke neurologist. With heart attacks, the big thing is the cath lab and they route the patients to the nearest appropriate hospital,” Martinez said.

Funds would be used for new heart unit, staff training

Martinez said if the tax renewal passes, funds from it would be used for staffing and operations of the new cath lab in addition to a cardiac clinic that should be completed by June. The $2.3 million clinic consists of 16 exam rooms, a nuclear medicine room, a stress treadmill room with two treadmills, two echocardiology rooms, a pacemaker room and a laboratory for blood work.

Other money from the tax, which will generate about 7.2 percent of the hospital’s total budget, will be used for staff training.

“Our EMTs and nurses get certified in advanced life support techniques, but they don’t last forever because you have to be tested every one or two years to make sure your skills are still there. All that cost money to make sure the staff is certified, so we use the money for education.” Martinez said.

East Bank outpatient center would also benefit from funds

Hospital officials also say that money from the renewal would help fund operations of a 72,000-square-foot medical center now under construction.

The complex will offer services including primary care, urology, gastroenterology, neurology, ophthalmology and internal medicine. Called Plantation View due to its location near Destrehan Plantation, the medical complex will also offer treatment for infectious diseases and orthopedic care.

In addition to the specialty treatments offered at the site, the building will house the first urgent care center on the parish’s East Bank.

Funds from the renewal would support staffing, medical supplies, medications and be used to recruit specialists to Plantation View.

CEO says renewing tax “critical” for community

Martinez added that renewing the tax is critical for both the hospital and the community.

“It’s important for the community because it primarily supports the emergency services of the hospital – so EMS, our capability of having an ER 24 hours a day and now our ability to have a cath lab here,” Martinez said. “It would be really hard to provide all those services, in particular EMS, if this doesn’t pass. That’s the reason the hospital has that millage.

“If we didn’t have it, it would be hard for us to continue that service.”

Martinez said that the hospital has also kept its promises when it comes to building facilities that parish residents want.

“From the last few times we’ve had elections we’ve polled the community and done focus groups to make sure we’re on track to provide what the community wants in terms of health care services from the hospital,” Martinez said. “We promised a new emergency rooms and we opened that last year. We promised a new cath lab and we’ve done that. We promised urgent care on the East Bank and we are in the process of doing that.”

He added that with the last renewal, EMS was able to purchase three new  ambulances with state-of-the-art technology.

The election will take place on Saturday, May 3 from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. To find your polling location, visit

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