SMITHFIELD, Va. (WAVY) – A Virginia Department of Health committee recommends that plans for the Isle of Wight County’s first hospital be denied.
In an Oct. 19 analysis from the ministry’s Public Needs Certificate Division, staff wrote that building a $ 100 million, 50-bed acute care facility would “unnecessarily duplicate existing services. already available ”in the region and that a more effective proposal would be“ maintaining the status quo ”.
The recommendation does not force Dr Norman Oliver, Virginia’s health commissioner, to come to the same conclusion. Riverside Health Systems CEO Bill Downey is still hoping he doesn’t.
“We are deeply disappointed with the initial recommendation,” Downey said in a statement. “Thousands of residents, leaders and first responders from the Isle of Wight and Surry counties have clearly expressed their support, both in their personal testimony and in their written signature, at Riverside Smithfield Hospital.”
Riverside Health Systems, owner of the land for several years in the Benns Church area of Smithfield, near the intersection of highways US-258, VA-32 and VA-10, presented plans for the hospital in June. The plans call for 34 medico-surgical beds, 10 intensive care unit beds and six obstetrics beds, four general-purpose operating theaters, an emergency department and other diagnostic, procedural and medical services.
The federal government has designated the counties of the Isle of Wight and Surry as “medically underserved” and “areas of shortage of health care practitioners,” according to a statement from Riverside.
The VDH report says hundreds of letters supporting the construction of the hospital were submitted and the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors also approved the project.
Supporters such as Valerie Butler, chairperson of the Isle of Wight NAACP chapter and Smithfield town councilor, say many residents of the county live more than 30 minutes from the nearest hospital and emergency department and that the potential delays on the bridges to the Virginia Peninsula and Suffolk concern a lot.
“It could be the difference between saving a life or not saving a life,” Butler said. “A local hospital will probably prolong the lives of some people. “
Only one letter of objection was filed. It came from healthcare competitor Bon Secours Hampton Roads Health Systems, which owns Bon Secours Harbor View as well as several other hospitals in the area.
VDH staff agreed with Bon Secours’ remarks that the hospital would duplicate the medical resources already available in the Hampton Roads area. Staff also said the project would increase the region’s current surplus of medico-surgical beds.
With the health commissioner not due to make a final decision until December, Butler still hopes the project can be approved.
“If residents continue this letter writing campaign, it will also be a further improvement in decision making,” said Butler.
IIt is unfortunate that many men, women and children in these counties, both recognized by the federal government as medically underserved areas, have insufficient access to quality health services and a limited choice of providers. We remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting improved access to high quality health care and believe there are many reasons the Commissioner approves Riverside Smithfield Hospital. We will continue to work with those in the Virginia Department of Health and the Commissioner, who will ultimately make the final decision, to clearly demonstrate the public’s need for Riverside Smithfield Hospital. We would like to thank the many residents, local officials and first responders who provided such a great outpouring of support.
Bill Downey, CEO, Riverside Health System