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Riverside appeal set for Dec. 10

Riverside Health System will have the opportunity on Dec. 10 to appeal a Virginia Department of Health report’s recommendation to deny a certificate of public need to its proposed 50-bed Isle of Wight County hospital.

The certificate of public need process requires state approval for the construction of new hospitals or the expansion of an existing one. Virginia has used the process since 1973.

The VDH issued its recommendation on Oct. 19, six days after holding a virtual public hearing on the matter. The agency’s report concluded the Riverside project “unnecessarily duplicates existing services already available in surplus” in Planning District 20, a geographic region that includes Isle of Wight and Southampton counties and the cities of Franklin, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

During the public hearing, however, a number of speakers argued it can take upwards of half an hour for Isle of Wight’s ambulances to reach hospitals in neighboring localities, depending on traffic.

Dec. 10  is the date scheduled for what the VDH terms an “informal fact-finding conference” concerning the Riverside proposal. According to Piero Mannino, supervisor of the VDH’s Division of Certificate of Public Need, this proceeding will give the hospital system another opportunity to make its case for the project to an “adjudication officer.”

The proceeding will take place at 10 a.m. in Board Room No. 3 of the VDH’s Perimeter Center, located at 9960 Mayland Drive, Henrico.

The conference had originally been scheduled for Nov. 5 but was delayed at Riverside’s request.

“As the applicant, we are utilizing our option to extend the review process based on the availability of those participating in the IFFC,” said Mark Duncan, Riverside’s director of government relations. “We look forward to the December conference and the conversation that will take place regarding the improved access to high quality healthcare our facility could provide the Isle of Wight community.”

The conference will be open to the public, but seating will be limited to ensure adequate social distancing, Mannino said. Unlike the public hearing, there are no plans to live-stream the proceeding.

The adjudication officer’s recommendation will then go to State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver for a final decision. Oliver had originally planned to make his final decision Dec. 8, but with the postponement of the conference, will now likely issue his decision on Jan. 10, 2022, according to Mannino.