Veterans continue push for hospital

“The veterans’ numbers are there to justify a hospital,” said Hamilton, coalition chairman.

When Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center moves out of its St. Landry Street campus next year, local veterans want to see a VA hospital move in.

The benefits for the 13-parish area’s more than 60,000 veterans and Acadiana’s economy were discussed during Wednesday’s meeting.

The group formed about 12 weeks ago to build support for its pending pitch to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to convert Lourdes’ St. Landry Street campus into a veterans hospital.

Lourdes’ move to its new hospital campus off of Ambassador Caffery Parkway is planned next year.

The group met with the hospital’s chief executive officer, Bud Barrow recently.

Barrow was “cordial and extremely giving of information” but would not disclose any financials on the 500,000 square foot St. Landry Street facility, said Al Leger, southwest regional manager for the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The cost of the entire facility was the only answer not given,” Leger said. He added that Barrow assured “same-day notice” to all interested parties when hospital officials were ready to disclose the asking price.

A VA clinic is located in Lafayette, but services are minimal with veterans having to drive to Pineville or Shreveport for hospital services, said Hamilton.

Hamilton said the group held meetings last week with Bryan Bayley, acting medical director of the VA medical facility in Pineville and the staffs of U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie.

At that time, an 18- to 24-month timeframe for a expansion and relocation of the Lafayette clinic was discussed as a possibility, he said.

“We’re trying to shorten that,” Hamilton said.

The estimated economic impact of an outpatient clinic is $37.1 million, said Meg Segura, a research coordinator with the Lafayette Economic Development Authority. Segura presented findings from an economic impact study.

A 700-employee hospital would equate to an economic impact of nearly $133 million annually, she said.

Segura also showed statistics that broke down the percentage of veterans by area in the state and how much of the state’s veterans medical expenditures is spent on care by area.

About 20 percent of the state’s veterans live in the 13-parish area, but only 15 percent of the state’s veterans medical expenditures are spent on veterans in the area, according to Segura’s findings.

“That 5 percent gap I think those people are staying here and not using a VA facility,” Segura told the crowd.

The distance to travel to the nearest medical facility in Pineville may be preventing veterans from taking advantage of medical services, she said.

In Shreveport, where there is a VA medical facility 24 percent of services are spent on veterans in that area, while the area only represents 21 percent of the state’s veterans, the study showed.

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