Community and Giving

Another try for new hospital

October 08, 2018

Riverside Health System will take another stab this year at getting approval to build a hospital in Williamsburg.

The health care group plans to file a letter of intent to seek a Certificate of Public Need from the state health commissioner in June, Riverside President Rick Pearce said Friday.

Riverside has already tried twice to secure state approval for its planned Doctor's Hospital of Williamsburg, and was denied in March 2006 and March 2007. Pearce said recent changes in both the criteria used in the application process and the personnel involved in the decision could hopefully change the outcome this time around.

"We're trying to take into account some of the commissioner's objections," Pearce said. "We're very optimistic that the third time will be the charm."

Pearce said details of the latest proposal haven't been ironed out, but it will be similar in scope to the $76million, 43-bed hospital Riverside asked for in 2007. That proposal was scaled down from the $82million, 69-bed facility that the health care group proposed the year before.

The hospital is slated to be part of the larger Quarterpath at Williamsburg development, which will include a long-term care facility and a mix of retail, office space and housing. If approved, it would be located on approximately 380 acres along Route 199 between Route 60 and Quarterpath Road.

Pearce said the application process includes a review by the Eastern Virginia Health Systems Agency, a review by health department staff, a fact-finding hearing and a final decision by the health commissioner.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, there are 20 factors used in determining whether a public need exists. The criteria include the need for additional facilities to serve the population of an area, the extent to which the project is accessible to residents, and the economic impact and financial feasibility of the project. The application process and project review can take seven months to complete.

Pearce said a new law passed during the recent General Assembly session changed some of the review criteria — and could help Doctor's Hospital. Under the new requirements, he said, the commissioner must take into account whether the proposed hospital will improve the competitive environment, its impact on medically underserved areas, and any evidence of community support for the project.

Pearce said Doctor's Hospital of Williamsburg would be roughly equidistant between the 139-bed Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center and the closest facility in Newport News, improving access to care for the large population in eastern Williamsburg.

Many people in the Williamsburg area also support having an alternative to Sentara, Pearce said, but the commissioner "basically ignored" that support during Riverside's first two applications.

"The community felt that having a choice was beneficial," Pearce said. "This time it will be more difficult for the commissioner to ignore."

The commissioner who rejected those applications, Dr. Robert Stroube, has since retired and been replaced by new health commissioner Karen Remley.

Also in Riverside's favor, Pearce said, is that the Eastern Virginia Health Systems Agency has a new board with more Peninsula representation, and a new executive director. Previous director Paul Boynton had opposed the Doctor's Hospital because of unfilled beds and low usage at the existing Sentara hospital.