Praise the Lord! Hospital’s coming

Published 5:52 pm Tuesday, March 29, 2022

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the recent decision by Virginia’s health commissioner to bless construction of a full-service, 50-bed hospital in Isle of Wight County. In fact, if we were making a list of impactful events in this community over the past 50 years, we’d rate the coming Riverside Health Systems hospital at Benn’s Church behind only Joseph Luter III’s decision to build Smithfield Foods’ corporate headquarters on the banks of the Pagan River downtown.

The economic impact will be enormous and ongoing.

Construction of the $100 million facility should begin within a year and provide good-paying jobs through its expected completion in the fall of 2025. In addition to the certain opportunities for local workers, a steady stream of out-of-town workers will boost the coffers of restaurants, hotels and retail stores.

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Once it opens, several hundred people, including many locals, will have permanent employment with an organization, Riverside, known for competitive wages and excellent benefits. Spinoff and support vendors will provide untold additional jobs.

The hospital will also spur additional residential growth. We acknowledge that to be a sore subject with many in the community who feel northern Isle of Wight is growing too fast for its own good. Perhaps. As it relates to growth caused by the hospital, we take a different tack. A full-service hospital actually enhances Smithfield’s and Isle of Wight’s likelihood of remaining a stand-alone, independent community, rather than the suburb of metropolitan Hampton Roads and the Peninsula that many believe we’re becoming.

Clearly, Riverside itself sees Smithfield in that light. Otherwise, its executives would be seeking to build a band-aid station rather than a hospital. The scope of services to be offered will meet most of the community’s health care needs. It will include an emergency room, a labor and delivery department with six obstetrics beds and a neonatal nursery, 34 medical/surgical beds, 10 intensive care unit beds, four operating rooms and diagnostic imaging services.

Beyond the economic and quality-of-life benefits, the hospital will be a long-deserved resource for sick and injured people who currently have to go to Suffolk or Newport News — and hope they survive the ambulance ride to get there. We were thrilled to see Surry County officials weigh in strongly for the necessary certificate of public need for Riverside to build the hospital. Their comments helped refute a Virginia Department of Health staff argument that the region has an adequate supply of hospital beds.

We appreciate the countless private citizens and government officials who made their voices heard in Richmond. Positive, transformational change is coming to Isle of Wight and Smithfield as a result.