Vote would fund new health building in Houma - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Vote would fund new health building in Houma

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Houma, La. - More than 1,000 people a month come through the Terrebonne Parish Health Unit for checkups, health screenings, and restaurant inspections.

The building on Polk Street has been there for more than 25 years and nursing supervisor Kim Dillard says you notice the problems right when you come in the lobby.

"When a patient comes in and we get all the information right here, the other person on this side can actually hear what we're saying because we get income, how many people are in the household, things like that," Dillard says. "So we're not HIPAA-compliant."

HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, and it set national standards for patient privacy.

Dillard says it gets much worse -- the carpet is torn and it rains inside during bad weather.

"We've outgrown our space," says Dr. Connie Gistand, medical director of the Department of Health and Hospital's Region 3. "A lot of our public health programs need more space just to be able to effectively carry out their programs."

A tax approved by voters in 2008 pays for maintenance of the building. Next Tuesday, Terrebonne voters will see a proposition on their ballot about the health unit.

It's not a new tax. The measure changes the wording of the current tax allowing the money generated to be used for a new building.

"We looked at expanding and renovating but the cost would be almost the same as if we built a new facility and it would be very difficult to do," says Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet.

The state has already chosen a new site for the public health unit where the Legion Park Pool used to be located.

A vote yes would change the wording of the tax and extend it to 2029, generating about 1.3 million dollars annually.

Claudet expects voters to approve the measure.

"People of the parish seem to vote yes for those things that are a true need in our parish," he says. "This is one they voted yes for in the past. It's been paid for for years, it just allows for the usage tax to construct the facility that they would need in this parish."

Claudet says if the proposition passes, the parish and state would break ground on the new health unit by early 2014.

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