After years of debate, is the plan for an independent, free-standing children’s hospital in Richmond really dead?
You might get that impression by reading recent headlines. The Times-Dispatch reported last night that the effort to build such a facility on the Boulevard had been "abandoned." It also said the plan was "on hold" in the Richmond area, presumably at any site in the region.
But it seems too soon to say the idea is over.
Katherine Busser, chief executive for the plan’s leading advocacy group, the nonprofit Virginia Children’s Hospital Alliance, told Richmond City Council that there was no way backers of the project could meet a Dec. 2 deadline to start showing the state that the project was needed, as required by law.
“Unfortunately the efforts to form a partnership with the key health care systems and discussions related to alternative options have not yielded the outcomes that we need to move forward on the current timeline,” Busser told council members. What she didn’t say was that the entire effort has been throttled. Some things that seem to be happening:
1. Busser’s group and its allies, Pediatricians Associated to Care for Kids, haven’t had enough time to find a medical organization to replace former partners Virginia Commonwealth University Health System and the Bon Secours Richmond Health System, which dropped out of the plan last year, citing cost. Advocates need one to apply for the Certificate of Public Need (COPN) that the state requires.
2. The state accepts applications for COPNs every six months. Busser says they might try again in the spring.
3. Busser’s organization is downsizing and will lose its paid staff, including Busser, who led the alliance after retiring from a senior executive position at Capital One Financial. She says she will continue to work on a pro bono basis for the Alliance, which will continue its operations.
4. The Alliance has been looking for a medical partner to replace VCU and Bon Secours, but obviously has yet to find one. One possibility had been the University of Virginia, where Bill Goodwin, a billionaire businessman who strongly backs the independent children’s hospital, serves a rector. Busser declines to comment on whether U.Va. has been involved. “We still maintain that the best answer is to do it with the local health care systems,” she told Style. “That is the best thing for the community. That is the best thing for the children.”
5. The 61-acre Boulevard area no longer is being considered for the site of a children’s hospital. Yet it's unclear if the city was ever holding the property for such possible use. In September, City Council passed a resolution in support of a children’s hospital going on that site, but never put legal conditions on holding it. Hospital backers have always said they would consider sites other than the Boulevard.
More to the Story: From the archives, Hospital Standoff: Hundreds of local children have illnesses that send them beyond Richmond to seek pediatric care. Why can’t we treat them here?
It seems that the push for the hospital has hit a big bump. But whether it's actually curtains for the deal is unclear.