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The landscape of downtown Monroe is expected to change in the coming years as St. Francis Medical Center begins a series of renovations and expansions to its main campus that will cost some $80 million.

The hospital announced phase one of its renovation project, a four-year capital campaign called St. Francis Forward,” on Monday.

“We want the exterior to be more appealing,” said Kristin Wolkart, president of St. Francis Medical Center. “We’ve spent the last 18 to 24 months working on the inside, and now it’s time to pay attention to the exterior.”

Beyond facility enhancements and new medical technology, the capital campaign also entails demolishing the St. Francis Parking Building. The parking building was built in 1953 and has remained unused for several years. The old parking building lies between St. Francis Medical Center and the hospital’s second parking garage, which was built in 1994.

Wolkart said the old parking building is being demolished to open possibilities for expansion.

“It hasn’t been used in a while, and that area is valuable real estate,” Wolkart said. “We imagine a new patient tower, but nothing is defined yet.”

Wolkart added that the space could be used for additional parking as well.

Wolkart said St. Francis’ second parking garage would not be demolished.

“That will remain open and used,” Wolkart said.

The demolition of St. Francis Medical Center’s unused parking building and skybridge structure will begin Aug. 14. The demolition of the unused parking building will be completed over the next six to nine months.

Valet parking will be available to patients and visitors during the construction phase. Wolkart said shuttle services would be provided, too.

Interior renovations began earlier this year with state-of-the-art technology additions and other new facility enhancements.

“St. Francis is 106 years old, and it’s time to look forward to the future,’ said Wolkart. “We’re finally able to afford the renovations that are needed.”

St. Francis became the first hospital in Northeastern Louisiana to provide endobronchial ultrasound, or EBUS, and a Watchman Program.

EBUS is a minimally invasive method to diagnose lung cancer and pinpoint its stage.

The Watchman Program introduces a procedure that places a small implant in the heart that can reduce the risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat.

A new hybrid surgical suite with state-of-the-art equipment will be added to St. Francis Medical Center. Construction of the hybrid surgical suite will begin in September.

A new heart catheterization lab will open later in August.

The lab will give St. Francis six catheterization procedure rooms.

St. Francis has also started a three-year renovation project to update all patient rooms, bathrooms and furnishings.

“Our desire is to make patient care and experience even better than it is today” Wolkart said.

St. Francis will be getting a helipad on top of the St. Francis Emergency Department ambulance bay. Construction for the helipad will begin toward the end of 2019.

“Our founding Sisters started the legacy of providing quality healthcare in Monroe over a century ago,” Wolkart said. “This investment shows that we are as committed as ever to serving the people of Northeastern Louisiana.”

Wolkart said St. Francis plans to use revenues generated by the treatment of patients in the community to fund the renovations.

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