More at Stake Than Just Healthcare

August 28, 2006
Reported By: Lee Peck

"As you can see this is what's left of our facility. It's not much but we have hopes and dreams that there will be something here again," said Hospital Board Member Leslie Trahan.

Before Hurricane Rita, South Cameron Memorial Hospital was the second largest employer in Cameron Parish next to the School Board. Now they employ no one and the nearest hospital is more than an hour away. But that could soon change, if residents pass a property tax this Saturday.

"It's a 21-mill general maintenance tax. And that will fund the emergency room, all of the x-rays and labs and salaries," said Lower Cameron Hospital District Secretary Treasurer Greg Fawvor.

If the tax passes, FEMA and the Louisiana Recovery Authority have agreed to fund the 18.7 million dollars to build a new facility.

"We've got a lot of different funding opportunties lined up for reconstruction, but we need the operating costs and that's what we hope to accomplish with this tax," said Cameron Parish Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Jones.

The ten year tax would replace the current 3.66 mill tax passed in 2000. Officials expect to be able to roll back the tax as more business and residents return to Cameron. "Once all of these things fall into place we're hoping within the next 3 or 4 years we'll be able to roll this tax back. Once the Chenier plant comes on line we're hoping that we'll be to roll the tax back. But it's vital in the beginning that we have enough funds to keep this facility operating," said Fawvor.

If the tax fails, existing industries in Cameron may leave because of higher health insurance costs. Some of those idustries like offshore oil and gas are lucrative. "We've been told by some of the industries that if they don't have an emergency room within so many miles of where their worksite is than they have to pull up operations and have to move to a different site."

That's a big loss Cameron Parish can't afford if they expect to rebuild and fully recover.

Polls will be open Saturday 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. We'll cover the election and start airing voting returns, when polls close.