Riverside launches Doctors Hospital

Williamsburg, Va -- Riverside Health System unveiled plans Friday for the new Doctors Hospital of Williamsburg, to open by 2009.

The payroll alone is pegged at $12.5 million, which would help the city recover from the loss next year of Sentara Williamsburg Community Hospital. And unlike Sentara, Riverside promises local control.

About 100 people, including members of City Council and the James City Board of Supervisors, attended the announcement at the Williamsburg Community Building.

The $82 million, 69-bed hospital would rise four floors within the Quarterpath at Williamsburg development.

Riverside filed an application of 1,400 pages and weighing 13 pounds with the state for a Certificate of Public Need to build the hospital. An acute care section of 18 beds would use the top floor.

Riverside already has state permission to build a nursing home here, but it faces formidable opposition by Sentara for a general hospital.

A public hearing by the Eastern Virginia Health Systems Agency is likely in Williamsburg sometime around Labor Day. The state health commissioner has until February 2006 to make a decision.

Riverside representatives said growth in the population here, along with the increased number of retirees, drove the decision to build a hospital.

* Population in the primary service area by 2015 will rise 35% over the 2000 population.

* The number of people over 65 will increase by almost 70% over the same period.

Steve Montgomery, working with Riverside as a consultant on the project, said the hospital would have 275 full-time equivalent positions, with a total of about 350-375 jobs. Doctors are excluded from those numbers.

Riverside also announced a 13-member local board of advisers for the hospital. Dr. Mark Ellis, a local oncologist and former member of the Williamsburg Community Hos pital board, is the chairman.

Among the 13, at least five are former chiefs of the medical staff at Williamsburg Community. They are Ellis, Dr. James Lesnick, Dr. Rennie Howard, Dr. Shawke Soueidan and Dr. Keith Hanger.

Other members include former City Council members Channing Hall III and Russell Tabb, and former James City Planning Commission chairman Joe Poole.

“Riverside vests operational responsibility to functioning boards of directors in the communities in which our facilities are located,” Riverside CEO Rick Pearce said.

He also said that Riverside has a strong belief in making sure doctors take part in decisions about health care for their patients.

“We are committed to meaningful and significant involvement by physicians in everything we do,” Pearce said. “The name Doctors Hospital of Williamsburg is more than just window dressing.”

Ellis said he was “very excited” over the prospect of “local control” of the hospital. Ellis was one of the outspoken critics when Williamsburg Community affiliated with Sentara, saying control of the hospital here had shifted to the Sentara administration in Norfolk.

“I support local control, and I've been an advocate of that principle for some time,” he said. “It's clear to me that this is a local operation.”

He also said an “energy went through the medical community” when word got out last year that Riverside planned a new hospital here.

Following the presentation, Pearce addressed the issue of competition between Doctors Hospital and Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center, under construction on Mooretown Road.

In April, Sentara Williamsburg Community Hospital administrator Bob Graves said at a City Council meeting that while competition may be good in many industries, it's not good in health care.

Though the names of Graves and Sentara were not mentioned, Pearce was clearly referring to them when he said, “Usually it's those who have established some form of monopoly who argue against competition.”

He said it's Riverside's position that competition will provide better access options for consumers, as well as prompt both hospitals to provide the best quality possible.

“There is a need for new beds,” Montgomery said. “This is an opportunity to interject choice and competition. Competition makes all the players better.”

Later Friday, Montgomery noted that of the 69 beds planned for the hospital, only 31 correspond with types of beds planned at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center.

“When boiled down to the basic levels, you have 31 beds versus 139 beds [at Sentara's new hospital],” Montgomery said. “There is not a whole lot [for Sentara] to worry about.”

The bottom line is a growing population, especially the elderly. “The population growth and aging will drive demand to fill everyone's beds,” Montgomery added.

Competition is sure to come up in the permitting process. Historically, the regional agency and Virginia Health Department have closely scrutinized applications that put additional beds into one area. Riverside's application shifts all 69 beds from Newport News.

Also in April, Graves said the addition of another hospital would create shortages of health care professionals and leave both facilities short-staffed.

Riverside said it already has 500 workers who live in Williamsburg and James City. Combined with the Riverside education of nurses and other professionals, no shortage in personnel is anticipated.

If a survey Riverside authorized in February is accurate, the local population is supportive of the idea. According to Friday's presentation of survey results:

* 91% said they believe the new hospital will have a positive impact on the area.
* 94% prefer the involvement of local citizens in decision-making.
* 97% want local physicians involved in those decisions.
* 80% said having a choice of hospitals would be beneficial.

Published: July 9, 2005



 

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