LACOMBE, LA (WVUE) - Dozens of employees will be laid off as one of St. Tammany's largest employers announces it may shut down in 30 days.
The Louisiana Heart Hospital said it is filing for federal bankruptcy protection.
It was built 14 years ago on Highway 434 north of Lacombe and instantly became home for employees like Brad Stringer.
"I've seen it from the beginning. It's a shame where we are now," said Stringer, an MRI tech.
After working there for more than a decade, Stringer and dozens of other employees got word last night via email.
"He called me and said he's losing his job, having a hard time because nobody wants to buy it," said Stringer's wife, Jennifer.
News of the hospitals closure spread quickly to employees and those who do business at the heart hospital.
"I got a lot of friends here and it kind of came as a shock to me," said medical sales rep Phillip Mangrum.
Company CEO Scott Boudreaux put out a statement saying, "After many months of careful consideration and review of all available options, it has become clear we can no longer sustain the continued losses and have no choice but to cease operations."
Hospital officials declined our request to go on camera, but in the statement blamed rising operating costs and declining reimbursements. The hospital said business had picked up recently, but apparently it wasn't enough.
"I do MRIs, and our business doubled over the years," said Stringer.
Surgeries went on as scheduled Tuesday with some patients' families saying they had no idea.
"I will pray for all of them. It's hard enough for families to make it," said Kathy Adkins, the wife of a patient.
Hospital officials said they will try to make the closure as painless as possible, but many still worry.
"It's tough," Stringer said. "You got a massive exodus. Everyone scrambling to find another facility to work at."
Stringer said right now he feels like he's on his own.
The hospital said it has been in discussions with a number of suitors, but so far there is no deal. It is seeking approval of a fund to help doctors and other employees transition to new facilities.