Work will soon begin on the West Feliciana Parish Hospital that will replace the existing outdated structure with a state-of-the-art medical center.

Hospital CEO Lee Chastant said the only hold-up is the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which will provide low-interest bonds that will fund the $25.7 million project.

Preliminary approval has been received, and a private lender, Investar Bank, is going through the approval process and will service the debt.

Within the next month, Chastant said, the hospital will ask permission from the Parish Council to seek Bond Commission approval.

“If that happens by the end of April, in May, we can go to the Bond Commission for final approval, then we’ll put the project out for bid,” Chastant said. “The council will not have any liability with this project, so it should be a simple process.”

The 53,000-square-foot new hospital building will be built adjacent to Burnett Road. It was designed by Curtis Group Architects and Grace Hebert Architects.

The first construction phase will be a $440,000 road that will provide a traffic artery for the roughly 12-acre hospital campus. The existing Health Unit building will be converted to doctors’ offices, and the existing support services building will be utilized as central supply, purchasing and maintenance.

“We’ll build a road across the gully to provide connectivity for the two campuses (between the new and old hospital buildings),” Chastant said. “We’ll build a retention pond that will be aesthetic as well as serve as a functional purpose for collecting the runoff to prevent erosion.”

The future of the existing hospital building, which was built in the mid-’70s, is under consideration, and Chastant said it has three possibilities: use it as it is; renovate it; or raze the building and repurpose the property.

“It could be used for something like assisted living or a mental health facility,” Chastant said. “It depends on the budget and the demand for the building. We could also lease it to someone else for medical services.”

The new hospital building will be an impressive, modern brick-and-glass structure, featuring 12 in-patient beds and a fully equipped emergency room. In addition, there will be an area for imaging, including all-new equipment such as an MRI machine, a CT scanner and an X-ray machine.

“We’ll be able to know how much (radiation) dosage a patient receives and monitor it and minimize it,” Chastant said.

The hospital will have a beefed-up laboratory plus areas for services such as respiratory therapy. It also will have an education room and space to expand.

“We’re building a facility to match what’s happened with health care in the last 40 years. There’s less need for beds and more need for outpatient services,” Chastant said.

A couple of items in the original plan — outpatient surgery and a medical office building — were cut to keep construction costs down.

“We’ve designed it more efficiently, and there will be separate check-in areas for emergency, outpatient and inpatient,” Chastant said. “Patients will be able to stay in their rooms, and we’ll come to them for services.

“It’s a much smarter operation, and patients will be able to get in and get out much quicker. The theme is wellness, not just an institutional facility. We’ve been prudent with our money, and we saved it for this investment for the community.”