Riverside Smithfield Hospital breaks ground

Published 4:31 pm Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Riverside Health Systems held a groundbreaking ceremony on July 26 for its planned 50-bed Smithfield hospital.

The 200,000-square-foot facility set to open in early 2026 will include an emergency room, intensive care unit, four operating rooms and diagnostic imaging.

A detached medical office building shown on the hospital’s site plans as fronting Route 10, also known as Benn’s Church Boulevard, will also break ground later this year and open ahead of the hospital in late 2025.

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According to a Riverside news release, former Smithfield Foods Chairman Joseph Luter III and his wife, Karin, made a contribution to the Riverside Foundation for the office building and hospital. At the Luters’ request, the auxiliary facility has been named the Jamison-Longford Medical Building in honor of Dr. Bernard Jamison and the late Dr. Desmond Longford, two longtime Smithfield physicians who helped establish the Western Tidewater Free Clinic in 2006.

Riverside’s planned expansion into Isle of Wight County has been in the works since 2008, when county supervisors approved commercial zoning for the nearly 30-acre hospital site as part of the master plan for the now 776-home Benn’s Grant development. Benn’s Grant Boulevard will facilitate access to the hospital from two highways: Routes 258 and 10.

Jessica Macalino, the newly appointed president of what will be known as Riverside Smithfield Hospital, said the facility will bring state-of-the art health care to the largely rural county of 40,000 residents. Isle of Wight for years has been federally designated as “medically underserved.”

Roughly 2,500 people, Macalino said, had written letters of support for the project when it went before the Virginia Department of Health in 2021 for its state “certificate of public need.” Virginia has since 1973 required health systems seeking to build a new hospital or expand an existing one demonstrate there’s need for the new facility. 

The VDH had initially recommended denial of Riverside’s requested certificate but reversed course in early 2022, citing the county’s rapid population growth. As of mid-2022, Isle of Wight was the seventh fastest-growing county in the state, according to census data.

Macalino, herself a county resident and key player in the certificate-of-need process, called the soon-to-be-realized hospital “truly a testament to the power of community.”

“What a historic day for Isle of Wight County,” said Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors Chairman William McCarty.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for this day,” said Valerie Butler, vice mayor of Smithfield and a member of Riverside’s board of directors.

VDH Commissioner Dr. Karen Shelton noted the new hospital would be unique in offering six obstetric beds at a time when many rural hospitals have shifted away from childbirth.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on July 31 at 3:36 p.m. to correct the spelling of Frankye Myers’ name.