Right decision needed on hospitals

Published 9:28 pm Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Hot on the heels of one announcement that a health system plans to build a small hospital in North Suffolk comes another two weeks later that a competing health system has similar plans.

Sentara Healthcare announced it plans a 24-bed hospital on the Sentara BelleHarbour campus on Bridge Road. That came two weeks after Bon Secours announced similar plans for a 25-bed hospital in nearby Harbour View.

Both proposals will endure a controversial state process through which the state health commissioner must determine, based on a number of factors, whether a public need for the project exists. There’s a possibility one or both projects could be denied.


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We think that would be a mistake. A growing population in North Suffolk, combined with other factors outlined Monday by Sentara Obici Hospital President Dr. Steve Julian, demonstrate a need for inpatient health care right in the North Suffolk community, for which folks do not have to travel to Suffolk’s Godwin Boulevard area, to Portsmouth or even to Newport News.

Suffolk’s population, currently slightly more than 90,000, is projected to rise to more than 135,000 by 2045, according to the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. Much of that growth is likely to be concentrated in North Suffolk.

Julian spoke to the growth on Monday as one reason Sentara is making the move now.

“The population growth in that market is phenomenal,” he said, “and the infrastructure the city has put in up there is just going to continue that growth.”

But while it’s certainly a big part of the picture, population growth alone isn’t everything. Sentara officials are also looking at requests from the public and the actual need for hospitalization.

Many people in the community have asked for the capability to have inpatient treatment at BelleHarbour, Julian said Monday. And when looking at the number of patients who arrived at the freestanding emergency room there and were ill enough to need hospitalization, Sentara officials have noticed those numbers rising in recent years.

In fact, in a daily patient count at Sentara Obici Hospital, about 14 had started their journey at the BelleHarbour emergency room. Those patients alone would fill about 60 percent of the planned capacity at BelleHarbour were it available.

All told, the move to begin the formal process of putting a hospital at the BelleHarbour campus seems like the right move at the right time. We hope and expect the COPN process will treat both health systems fairly and come up with the decision that is right for the community.