By David Vitrano
Last modified/Published Wednesday, June 13, 2012
It may be hard to believe, but just a little more than three decades ago, the growing enclave of LaPlace had no hospital of its own, and residents were forced to seek out-of-parish help for medical emergencies.
Much has changed in that time, and LaPlace’s River Parishes Hospital has grown into one of the region’s premiere healthcare facilities.
On Aug. 9, 1981, Lt. Gov. Bobby Freeman helped break ground for the new hospital, and on June 13, 1982, exactly 30 years ago, the new hospital was dedicated with a ceremony that included Billy Tauzin and singer Aaron Neville.
“History was made that day. We’ve been trying to make history ever since,” said River Parishes Hospital CEO Gerald Fornoff at a commemorative event held Saturday at the hospital.
According to Fornoff, the hospital’s emergency room saw about 25 people on that first day. By today’s standards, of course, that number is ridiculously low. The hospital is now a 106-bed facility, and it has an eye toward even more growth.
In those first days, the hospital had 200 employees. Its staff has now grown to 350, but nine physicians and seven employees who were there that first day still work at River Parishes Hospital.
Dr. Billy St. Martin, who was instrumental in bringing a full-service hospital to St. John the Baptist Parish, said on the occasion of the hospital’s 30th anniversary, "We hope it grows a lot more and can serve you a lot better."
Following an introduction from Fornoff and St. Martin, a ribbon cutting was held followed by a health fair that included free testing, opportunities to connect with local healthcare agencies, refreshments and children’s activities.