Riverside hospital decision set for March 21

Published 9:23 am Tuesday, March 15, 2022

A change in leadership at the Virginia Department of Health isn’t expected to impact the agency’s timeline for reaching a decision on Riverside Health Systems’ requested certificate of public need for its proposed 50-bed Isle of Wight County hospital.

Interim State Health Commissioner Dr. Colin Greene is set to make his decision on the matter March 21 – the same date VDH had assigned when Greene’s predecessor, Dr. Norman Oliver, held the position.

Oliver left his post – reportedly at Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s urging – on Jan. 14, one day before Youngkin took office. Since then, Greene, formerly the director of the Lord Fairfax Health District, has been leading the VDH in an acting capacity.

Now Greene, not Oliver, will have the final say as to whether Riverside receives the required state approval to move forward with its plans for the $100 million hospital.

Since 1973, Virginia has used the certificate of public need process, which requires health systems seeking to build a new hospital to demonstrate with data that there is a need for the new facility that isn’t currently being met. VDH staff recommended in October that Riverside’s application be denied on the grounds that the proposed project “unnecessarily duplicates existing services already available in surplus” in Planning District 20 – a region that includes Isle of Wight and Southampton counties and the cities of Franklin, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

Riverside appealed the recommendation at a December “informal fact-finding conference,” arguing the alleged “surplus of 229 medical-surgical beds in PD 20 for the five-year planning horizon” cited in VDH’s recommended denial was actually a 135-bed surplus by Riverside’s calculations, which then becomes a 79-bed deficit when unstaffed beds are subtracted.

Riverside also took issue with the VDH’s listed travel times from Isle of Wight and Surry counties to Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News and Sentara Obici Hospital in Suffolk, arguing that ambulance trips in reality take upward of half an hour due to traffic congestion.

If approved, the Riverside project would be built on land the hospital system already owns near the intersection of Benn’s Church and Brewer’s Neck boulevards.

According to Piero Mannino, supervisor of the VDH’s Division of Certificate of Public Need, Greene’s March 21 decision might not reach the COPN Division through interagency mail that same day. When a written decision reaches the division, it will be published and made publicly available at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/licensure-and-certification/the-certificate-of-public-need-program/case-decisions/.