Town Council supports efforts for new hospital

Published 7:02 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The Windsor Town Council voted unanimously Aug. 10 to adopt a resolution of support for Riverside Health System to establish a new general acute care, 50-bed hospital in Isle of Wight County that could open by early 2025.

Riverside Health System Director of Government Relations Mark Duncan noted the planned location of the hospital is adjacent to the Benn’s Grant neighborhood across the street from Benns Church.

Duncan and two other RHS representatives, including CEO William “Bill” Downey, were at the Windsor Town Council meeting, seeking the council’s support in the system’s application for a Certificate of Public Need from the Commonwealth of Virginia to establish the new hospital.

“I’m grateful that Riverside is willing to come over here and invest,” Vice Mayor Greg Willis said. “(Council member) Walter (Bernacki) can attest to this, having ridden rescue out here in this area, rural areas are tough to ride rescue in, especially under certain circumstances, and having to ride in an ambulance all the way to Riverside Hospital from this side of the river is an atrocious consideration.”

He said this new hospital would cut huge amounts of time off of the ride.

“I think it’s an opportunity reflecting the growth of the area and a growing need,” Mayor Glyn T. Willis said of the proposed hospital.

Downey stated that the Isle of Wight community is a medically underserved area, which typically means there’s a higher rate of diabetes and cardiology issues, and so Riverside thinks by bringing services closer to home, it can provide additional care and support.

He added that a lot of what Riverside representatives have heard about is emergency medical services squads having to make very long runs, and so having a hospital in the community with the full-service emergency department will reduce some of those runs and allow rescue squads to get back into service much faster. Also having the capacity to transfer patients who might need tertiary care services to the Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News would be easier done through a transfer between a Riverside facility and a Riverside facility.

Bernacki asked why Windsor was not considered as the location of the new hospital, and Downey said population was the biggest reason.

“Yes, it would be nice if it was maybe 10 miles further south — I’ll join with Walter in understanding that,” Mayor Willis later said of the proposed hospital. “But some of this comes back to that opportunity we talk about often: There’s just not quite enough rooftops here in the circle around Windsor to accommodate that.”

Bernacki asked Downey if the new hospital would get any trauma-level certification and what level it would be.

The response was that initially it would simply have a full-service emergency department. Riverside Regional Medical Center is a Level II trauma center, which the Virginia Department of Health says has an organized trauma response and is also expected to provide initial definitive care, regardless of the severity of injury.

Downey said the potential is that the new hospital could possibly become a Level III trauma center, which the VDH says can, through an organized trauma response, provide prompt assessment, resuscitation, stabilization, emergency operations and also arrange for the transfer of the patient to a facility that can provide definitive trauma care.

Vice Mayor Willis asked if there were any possibilities of the new hospital drawing physician services to the area, “because that’s one thing our town lacks is primary care physician services.”

Downey’s answer was yes, with Riverside having a large medical group, it’s expected that the Isle of Wight community will be an easy area to recruit physicians.

The vice mayor and Bernacki also asked about the possible growth of the new hospital after it opens.

Downey said they will plan it to be able to expand, and he added that more and more services are being done on an outpatient basis, so this hospital will have a very large outpatient component that Riverside believes will meet any of the needs of the community.

“So I take it that you’re planning a land plot that would be open for that potential planning in the future?” Bernacki said later.

“Yes,” Duncan replied. “It is a 30-acre spot, so it’s rather large, and it has the potential to expand as needed.”

Bernacki also asked if Riverside was proposing any specialty services, such as catheterization or stroke services, for the new hospital due to the fact Bon Secours DePaul Medical Center is now closed.

Downey said they do not initially have a cath lab in the plan, as the population would not support it. Riverside would plan, through Riverside Regional Medical Center, to have its stroke certification, and then over time, it would become a primary stroke center and then tie to the comprehensive stroke center at the medical center.

Additionally, Downey said the entire hospital project will bring about $100 million of construction to Isle of Wight County.

Reflecting on the hospital, Mayor Willis said, “It does address a need as we look at the larger county, which we are a part of, and I think it’s appropriate that we support that.”

“It’s going to benefit us,” Council member J. Randy Carr said. “Even though we have Sentara right down the road, at the same time, it’s going to benefit us.”

“Especially with the (primary care physicians),” Bernacki added. “If they had primary care satellites that they hope to move or encourage down in this area, that would be a plus because then they’d help move that into this community, with the primary hospital care being up there, if I understood that correctly.”

Jessica Macalino, Riverside associate vice president for cardiovascular and pulmonary services, confirmed Bernacki was correct.