Hospital celebrates heritage on St. Patrick’s Day 

Published 8:58 am Friday, March 17, 2023

Patricia Hardy Prudhomme considers herself part of the generation that grew up calling the medical complex on South Ryan (now Michael DeBakey Drive), “St. Pat’s.” Since 2019, she has been the executive director of development at Christus Ochsner SWLA Foundation, and she has noticed that references to “St. Pat’s” are not as common as they once were.

“It still surprises me when I mention something about the convent or the chapel, and I get this puzzled look,” she said. “The original 1948 structure still stands on Foster St. where the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word arrived here by wagon to build a hospital like the one they had established in Galveston. A local physician and the rector of Immaculate Conception  Church contacted the sisters. Dr. Martin was a native of Ireland, and he is the one who insisted it be named after St. Patrick.”

In 1908, the St. Patrick Sanitarium opened and later became St. Patrick Hospital. In 2017, Christus Lake Area Hospital was acquired. 2018 marked the joint venture with Ochsner Health System, resulting in the present name.  The Foundation is a separate, affiliated non-profit.

Every year, around St. Patrick’s Day, the hospital’s heritage is remembered and celebrated in Grace Gardens.

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“It’s a peaceful greenspace by the Convent Chapel at Christus Ochsner St. Patrick Hospital, Prudhomme said, “with fountains and benches. Not only is the heritage of the hospital celebrated around St. Patrick’s Day. Loved ones are also remembered.”

Family and friends purchase bricks to honor someone who made a difference in their lives. Some bricks have been purchased to honor organ donors. These etched bricks, purchased throughout the previous year, are blessed and dedicated. After the ceremony, the Registered Nurse of the Year is named.

Each brick added to Grace Gardens, which is intended as a place to find comfort, healing and God, has an impact.

Prudhomme has been putting together her own stepping stones, and making a concerted effort not to sound like a Pollyanna as she leads and works to affect change at work and in the community.

“These words aren’t on a bumper sticker yet, but I think they should be,” she said. “Worry about your street.” That’s her take on making change within an individual’s circle of influence, no matter the size of the circle.

She understands the importance of working within her circle of influence to make things better in Southwest Louisiana, and she’s doing it with humor and genuine concern, not from moral high ground. She is a realist, and a hard working one on the job, and…well, she’s never really off the clock. She’s always on a mission. In addition to her duties as Executive Director of the Christus Ochsner SWLA Foundation, which is an auxiliary organization separate from the hospital, she helps other organizations find the turning point to facilitate change, growth and success. She’s been in other similar positions, most in the health field.

She has served and continues to serve in leadership roles for the Lake Area Industry Alliance, Mae’s Mission, National Endowment for the Arts, American Cancer Society, Chamber SWLA, MusicMakers2U and Louisiana Partnership for the Arts. She’s a member of the Greater Lake Charles Rotary Club, the Association of Fundraising Professionals and was a 2017 Mayor’s Arts Awards Citizen of the Arts.

In Prudhomme’s mind, occasionally sharing space with a recurring image of a beach vacation, is the problem of poverty, which is at the root of food insecurity, housing struggles, employability and transportation issues. She knows it’s complex, that it’s worldwide, and that it is a growing problem. Two years ago, the hospital wrote off $19 million in hospital bills that could not be and/or were not paid.

“We’re fortunate here to be working with Catholic Charities to help those that need it receive food, rent and electricity. But I am constantly asking, How do we continue to do that? How do we continue lifting up others – because I know that by doing that, it helps all of us.”

She is proud to be affiliated with Christus Ochsner, an organization that has donated $8.1 million to improve the health of SWLA with its four school-based care centers and community education events such as the prevention of alcohol prevention and diabetes and smoking cessation. It has also provided pharmacy items for mission trips.

Christus Ochsner is among only three not-for-profit hospitals in the state. It is a mission-based organization and that mission is to extend the healing-based ministry of Jesus Christ,” she said.

“You asked me to say something about St. Patrick’s Day and no, we don’t plan to serve green beer in the cafeteria, but I found this simple Celtic blessing, and it goes like this. ‘May God give you, for every storm, a rainbow, for every tear, a smile, for every care, a promise and a blessing in each trial. For every problem in life send a faithful friend to share, for every sigh, a sweet song and an answer for each prayer.’”