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During the height of the COVID-19 inpatient volume at Lane Regional Medical Center, one hall was designed as a COVID unit.

Efforts to increase hospital capacity at Lane Regional Medical Center in Zachary are moving ahead as hospital leaders and federal officials prepare to unveil their plans to build a four-story medical tower.

The tower will house acute patient care rooms and surgical and intensive-care units, as well as a larger operating suite. A recent loan to the hospital was one of more than 250 made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an undertaking to invest $871 million nationwide into community facilities that also include libraries and schools in rural areas.

With the goal of adding more specialty care, 48 acute patient care rooms, surgical and intensive care units, nurse’s stations and administrative areas will be created through the project.

Hospital leaders and USDA officials will announce more details on the project Thursday.

The expansion comes through a $61 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to renovate 37,000 square feet of the hospital and build a new medical tower, with its groundbreaking expected in the spring of 2022.

Work will progress even though, separately, Zachary-area voters in the fall rejected a 10-year property tax hike that would have generated about $61 million.

Though there was no organized push to reject the proposal, it failed by a nearly 2 to 1 margin, spurning the facility’s request that taxpayers help restore losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 60-year-old hospital, which services Zachary and nearby communities, had never sought public assistance before and officials said after Election Day they would not pursue a future tax.

The timing of the federal boost also comes as hospitals across the state have reported steep losses. They were particularly severe when the state asked them to forestall nonemergency surgeries and procedures as the coronavirus pandemic intensified last spring.

Many health care facilities rely on those lucrative procures for a significant part of their revenues.

Hospital leaders at Lane Regional cited the loss of income and rising costs of caring for patients who required hospital care after contracting COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Ahead of Election Day, the hospital said it experienced a roughly 40% drop in revenue.

That drop mirrors what many other hospitals have suffered in recent months. Many facilities across the state have called for congressional support to offset those financial hits.


Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com, and follow him on Twitter @youssefrddad