Supervisors receive update on new hospital

Scott Burnette, CEO of VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill, appeared before the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors on Monday night to update the members on progress made at the new replacement hospital, now under construction in northeast South Hill, and to make a request.

Although VCU had originally committed $75 million for the new facility, Burnette told the members that the figure had climbed to nearly $82 million. VCU, he said, had readily agreed to the increase and remains fully committed to the project to bring a new, state-of-the-art medical facility to the area.

He added that VCU has also decided to include an advanced information system that will link the South Hill facility to all other facilities under the VCU Health umbrella, regardless of location. This, explained Burnette, will allow any VCU facility to have full access to all patient records, test results and other information with no need for duplication of records or time wasted.

Going from VCU’s South Hill facility to VCU’s Richmond facility, he said, will be as simple for patients as stepping to another room.

The cost of the information system was said to be around $9 million.

Despite less than ideal weather at times, Burnette told the supervisors that the project remains on schedule.

“The walls are going up, and the brick work is underway,” said Burnette. “You can see the progress.”  He added, however, that much remains to be done before the official opening, on schedule for Nov. 11, 2017.

“We have 18 months to plan our move, and it takes that long,” said Burnette. “Some of our employees have been in the same location for their whole careers,” he explained and added that they will not only be moving into new facilities but will be working with new equipment.

Burnette said he is happy with the way work is progressing on the project.

VCU Health has also committed to recruiting doctors, specialists and staff for the facility and, said Burnette, has already secured 15 new physicians, including two full-time cardiologists and others. The system expects to bring in seven more before the end of the year.

“They (VCU) have lived up to their commitment,” said Burnette. “They want to provide a seamless environment for care.”

The project has been so successful, said Burnette, that although the hospital is not even finished, they have already run out of space for additional doctors. Burnette said that the hospital had been designed with the plan of expansion and that VCU had agreed that the need is there.

According to Burnette, VCU has agreed to the expansion but would like the community to provide a part of that funding. Burnette explained that VCU has asked for local funds of $3.5 million of the total $15 million cost of a Medical Services Center to be located adjacent to the new hospital. Already, said Burnette, local efforts have secured $2.3 million.

Burnette told the supervisors that the ambitious hospital project is a local effort that will bring better healthcare to Mecklenburg as well as jobs and economic development. He then asked if the supervisors would prove $50,000 a year for five years, a total contribution from the county of $250,000.

Burnette told the group that construction on the expansion could be started as early as February and would be completed in time to open with the new hospital on Nov. 11, 2017. He added that if the expansion is undertaken at this time, serious savings can be realized because the construction crews and equipment will already being in place.

Board of Supervisors Chair Glenn Barbour thanked Burnette for his progress report and commended he and VCU for their commitment to the community and the project. Although he explained that the issue would have to be taken up during the next budgeting cycle, he felt the project had the support of the supervisors.