On September 1, 1994, a reservoir of almost $140 million was used to create what was then the largest endowed charitable foundation in Louisiana, The Rapides Foundation.
Although new to Central Louisiana as a grantmaking organization, The Rapides Foundation stems from a legacy of healthcare and community service that spans decades. It began in 1903 when a group of six physicians formed the 20-bed Alexandria Sanitarium at the corner of Second and Lee Street. The Louisiana Baptist Convention acquired the sanitarium in 1917 and operated it as the Baptist Hospital until 1970 when it was turned over to the community as Rapides General Hospital. From that point, the hospital flourished as Rapides Regional Medical Center and developed into one of the leading nonprofit, acute care hospitals in the state.
Changing healthcare environment
By the hospital's 90th anniversary in 1993, challenges to its long term ability to provide quality healthcare and civic involvement were recognized by the RRMC trustees. Trustees and administration were concerned with competitive market and pricing pressures in a managed care environment which had become the focus of the industry. The issues to be addressed were managing operating costs and obtaining access to capital for the technology and facilities necessary to maintain and improve the level of excellence that the medical and patient community had come to expect. Extensive research indicated that a networked alliance could offer operating efficiencies and strengthen market potential as a managed care provider.
A joint venture partnership
An opportunity was then recognized. A joint venture partnership with Columbia/HCA could extend the hospital's ability to provide quality healthcare in the changing environment and create a perpetual pool of resources to enable and sustain the quality of living in Central Louisiana through grantmaking activities as The Rapides Foundation. The operating assets and name of Rapides Regional Medical Center were sold to Central Louisiana Healthcare Systems Partnership which also includes four smaller Central Louisiana hospitals contributed by Columbia/HCA. The recognition of operational and governance concerns resulted in the restructuring of the joint venture to a limited liability corporation - Rapides Healthcare System in 1998. The Foundation continues to own a 26% interest in Rapides Healthcare System. This ownership level enables the Foundation to ensure community benefit through local governance.
A major change for the system in 2009 was the sale of its three rural hospitals - Avoyelles Hospital in Marksville, Oakdale Community Hospital in Oakdale, and Winn Parish Medical Center in Winnfield - to Progressive Acute Care L.L.C. Also, in 2009, RHS transitioned its operations lease of Savoy Medical Center in Mamou to Savoy Medical Group and the Town of Mamou. These actions by RHS gave these hospitals a chance to customize healthcare for patients in their communities and gave them the best possible opportunity for continued success and growth.