Medicine is big business. In fact, more people work in the healthcare industry in Louisiana than any other industry. That’s more than the energy, the financial and the agricultural sectors combined. According to a joint economic impact study conducted by the Louisiana Hospitals Association and LSU, healthcare facilities account for a $31 billion economic impact annually. Approximately 300,000 Louisianans are employed by hospitals, with 25 percent of the state’s healthcare workers residing in Acadiana. Beyond profits and employing people, though, the healthcare industry’s presence in this state has also brought forth progress. During the past decade, healthcare providers in Acadiana have made exponential strides in infrastructure and innovation, constructing state-of-the-art new facilities or expansions and renovations on existing buildings and purchasing cutting-edge equipment to outfit doctors with the capability to perform procedures previously reserved for hospitals in major metropolitan areas.
“Healthcare is a dynamic industry,” says Greg Stock, CEO of Thibodaux Regional Medical Center. “It’s constantly changing. The need for improvement in patient care, like innovations in cancer care, can’t be ignored. Yes, it’s expensive and yes it takes a lot of discussion on how you can make it work, but we want to be on that ‘leading edge’ of innovation.
“You do it for offensive and defensive reasons,” Stock continues. “Offensive in the fact that our nature is the pursuit of excellence. That’s the culture in our hospital. New facilities and new procedures are part of that pursuit of excellence. And as far as defensive, simply, you don’t want to fall behind — to be second in quality care, efficiency, service and patient satisfaction. We want to be right there as a leader.”
In tune with that sentiment, Stock and the rest of the Thibodaux Regional in June 2018 formally announced plans for a new, five-story, $35 million cancer center to be constructed on the hospital’s campus starting at the end of this year.
Citing a need for such a facility — South Louisiana has some of the highest cancer incident rates and cancer mortality rates in the country — Stock says this new facility will be the springboard for growth and development of local cancer care. The 100,000 square-foot building will be awash in natural light and feature areas for radiation therapy (the hospital recently purchased $5 million in new radiation therapy equipment), oncology and chemotherapy. There are also a few sections of the cancer center that will be reserved for future expansion and treatment procedures as the fight against the disease continues to evolve over the coming years.
The project is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2020.
“It’s always been our goal, since I got here 27 years ago, to increase and improve cancer services to the people of this area,” Stock says. “Our program has been successful by the standards measured in our industry. The quality of care has been outstanding. Accreditation has been at the very highest level. But we are at a point where, and our board agreed, that we needed a new facility to provide cancer care.
“Cancer is a particular kind of care, in my opinion. It requires an environment conducive to healing…and that is how this center was designed.”
New medical facilities have also opened in other parts of Acadiana this year.
In May 2018, healthcare officials, civic leaders and other prominent locals cut the ribbon to ceremonially open the Wound Care Center at St. Martin Hospital in Breaux Bridge. The hospital, which already features the only emergency room in St. Martin Parish, is now also the only facility capable of tending to non-healing wounds resulting from pressure sores, surgical wounds, radiation sores or foot ulcers caused by diabetes or vascular issues. Typically, patients seek specialized care at a wound center like the just-opened facility in Breaux Bridge if the healing process hasn’t begun within two weeks of the incident or completely healed within six weeks to two months.
Hospital executives have entrusted Dr. Kerry A. Thibodeaux to oversee operations at the state-of-the-art Wound Care Center. Treating wounds was Dr. Thibodeaux’s focus while a he was the Chief Resident at LSU Medical School, where he received a grant to study the effects of various wound cures. Today, Dr. Thibodeaux is a review physician for medical journals, is often a featured speaker at wound care conferences around the world, and is conducting trials of new wound-care products to see if they can achieve FDA approval standards.
Right before the start of the new year, shovel was put to dirt at Acadia General Hospital in Crowley — which also falls under the Lafayette General Health umbrella — on an ambitious expansion and renovation project that is scheduled for completion in first quarter 2019. More specifically, the $4 million facelift is primarily focused on updating the hospital’s emergency room.
Once finished, the new ER at Acadia General will more than double in size, feature five times as many private rooms, and have a covered drop-off and pick-up area. Currently, the ER is designed to handle 600 patients a month but actually treats 1,800 patients a month, making this expansion a necessity, not a luxury.
When it comes to and introducing new procedures into patient care, doctors at the Cardiovascular Institute of the South continue to be at the forefront.
In late March 2018, CIS was one of the first two sites in the United States to use the UltraScore Focused Force PTA Balloon to open a blocked artery during angioplasty. The technology is designed to allow surgeons to treat stenotic lesions in the superficial femoral artery, the popliteal artery and the infrapopliteal arteries while lessening the chance of tears in the inner layer of the artery.
Then, in May 2018, CIS cardiologists Dr. Peter Fail, Dr. Louis Salvaggio and Dr. Darrell Solet were the first in Acadiana to perform mitral valve repair using the innovative MitraClip procedure. The surgery, which was conducted at the Hybrid Operation Room at Lafayette General Medical Center, is a minimally-invasive treatment option for those with a severe leak in the mitral valve who are not healthy enough for heart surgery. The MitraClip is inserted using a catheter and restricts blood from flowing back into the heart as it pumps.
“[We are] proud to offer the latest treatment options for our patients in Acadiana,” Dr. Fail says. “We plan to expand the technology available, particularly for our patients with structural heart diseases, allowing them to receive the care they need in their own community.”
“Local care is just that — it’s local,” Stock says. “It closer, so it’s less expensive. It’s less disruptive to family schedules. It’s personal. You’re not just a number. You’re not lost in the process. You know your practitioners and your family knows them. So when you do things, and grow and improve your ability to treat patients it keeps care local, it strengthens the healthcare provided locally.
“Serving the community is the No. 1 priority.”
Cardiovascular Institute of the South was one of the first two sites in the US to use the UltraScore Focused Force PTA Balloon