Christus St. Patrick Hospital in Lake Charles announced Friday it is dissolving its partnership with Lafayette developer and retired cancer physician Glenn Stewart in an upscale assisted-living retirement community set to open soon in Lake Charles.

The website for the Country Club Road development, Christus Village, indicates it has 80 individual living apartments and 20 chateaus targeting a 55 and older demographic.

Christus St. Patrick’s involvement in the Christus Village project included marketing services and management of the so-called continuing care retirement community. Operated by the larger Christus Health, a Catholic faith-based group that owns more than 40 hospitals in six states and Mexico, Christus St. Patrick does not identify Stewart by name in the press release announcing the end of the partnership, but an inference to the troubled developer can be gleaned from the hospital’s announcement:

... CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital’s vision for the project was not entirely aligned with that of the project developer. After careful deliberation and prayerful discernment, CHRISTUS St. Patrick has come to believe that it will be in the best interest of the hospital if the organization is no longer associated with the project. 
“As a Catholic organization, what’s most important to us is that our mission, vision and core values align with the companies and projects with which we are involved. Although we believe a senior community is needed in Lake Charles, we must be able to ensure that all projects bearing the CHRISTUS name are aligned with our long-term strategies,” said CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital Administrator Donald H Lloyd II.

We tried to contact Lloyd for comment. We instead were referred to Heather Hildalgo, the director of marketing and communications who issued the press release hours earlier. Hidalgo would essentially only reiterate what was in the press release. “Really our decision was just made based on our need for our vision, our mission and our core values to align with the companies and projects that we’re involved with,” Hidalgo told us Friday afternoon.

When pressed over whether the decision was linked directly to the project’s association with Stewart, Hidalgo didn't budge: “The reason is just what I just said. That’s all I can say. Our mission is to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ. Our core values are dignity, integrity, excellence, compassion and stewardship. We just need to make sure that all projects bearing the Christus name are aligned with our long term strategies. That was the reason for our decision. ”

We spoke Friday with Laurie Hamilton, a Lake Charles resident whose mother in Arkansas put down a $10,000 deposit to reserve a unit at Christus Village. Hamilton tells us she and her mother became suspicious about the project when a salesperson for Christus Village kept referring to “the owner” of the retirement community as if it were a person and not Christus Health or its subsidiary, Christus St. Patrick Hospital. Hamilton and her mother were “dotting the i's and crossing the t's,” as she puts it, due to the exorbitant cost of living at Christus Village: In addition to the $10,000 deposit, according to Hamilton, residents must pay an up-front cost of $220,000 plus $3,000 per month.

Hamilton and her mom soon found out that Stewart, not the Catholic faith-based organization, was the owner of the facility, despite that promotional materials for the retirement community presented it as a project of Christus Health. Hamilton had heard of the Lafayette developer’s infamous exploits from relatives in the Hub City. Once she realized who was really behind Christus Village, Hamilton says she and her mother decided they wanted nothing to do with it.

“We trust Christus Health and the Catholic Church, even though we’re not Catholic,” Hamilton says. “But we don’t trust Glenn Stewart.”

We became aware of Hamilton after a source forwarded an email she sent to the news department at KPLC-TV, the Lake Charles NBC affiliate, urging the TV station to report on Stewart’s relationship with Christus Village. The email was sent to KPLC on Feb. 29, more than a week before Christus St. Patrick announced the end of the partnership.

So far news media in Lake Charles appear to be treating the Christus St. Patrick announcement like kryptonite. KPLC has been doing live remote broadcasts publicizing Christus Village and no doubt is making a handsome bundle in revenue off Stewart. The TV station has nothing we can find about Christus St. Patrick’s Friday announcement on its website. Nor does The (Lake Charles) American Press newspaper. Christus St. Patrick Hospital is a major advertiser on the websites of both The American Press and KPLC, although we can find no advertising for Christus Village on either site.

On Friday Hamilton’s mother picked up a refund check from Christus Village for her $10,000 deposit. The check was written on an account for Lake Charles Gardens LLC. The registered agent and officer, in fact the only person associated with Lake Charles Gardens LLC, according to the Louisiana secretary of state, is Glenn Stewart.

Hamilton says the Christus Village’s office is still emblazoned with Christus’ imprimatur, as if Christus Health is the owner/operator of the retirement community. “All their material in there still has Christus Health on it — there’s no mention of [Stewart’s] name or Lake Charles Gardens LLC or anything like that.”

“It’s misleading,” Hamilton adds. By late Friday afternoon the Christus Village website was still touting the retirement community as a project of Christus Health.

Christus St. Patrick Hospital’s Hidalgo says the hospital began the Christus Village project as owner in April 2007. Stewart, through Lake Charles Gardens LLC, purchased the development in October 2010. Hidalgo adds that the word “CHRISTUS” is a trademark of Christus Health. The organization’s contract with Lake Charles Gardens LLC, Stewart’s company, expires April 2. After that date Christus Village will have to use a different name for the retirement community, she says.

CHRISTUS_1

The website for Christus Village on Friday was still advertising the project as "brought to you by CHRISTUS Health," although the Catholic faith-based health care group severed ties with Glenn Stewart, developer of the retirement community.

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