The hospital in Patrick County. Photo courtesy of Addison Merryman.

Little is known in Virginia about the buyer of the shuttered hospital in Patrick County who says he plans to not only reopen the hospital but to offer a broad array of healthcare services. But Foresight HS Property Holdings – Blue Ridge LLC president and CEO Sameer Suhail is well known in Chicago, where he is connected to conduct that is the focus of several legal probes. 

Sameer Suhail, Courtesy of Suhail.

Suhail said in an email Friday that he is hesitant to comment on legal matters. He added that no legal action has resulted from these investigations, and that “if any illegal activity did occur,” it happened without his knowledge. “If rogue actors did act in any way untoward, I would of course condemn it,” he said. Suhail also underscored that he acquired the hospital in Patrick County as “a cash purchase” that is “unrelated to revenue associated” with Chicago’s Loretto Hospital.

News broke last month that a newly formed health care provider had purchased Pioneer Community Hospital in Patrick County with the intention to reopen it. Foresight’s spokeswoman confirmed the purchase, but declined then to provide details, stating “timelines will be announced at a later date.” The sale came about a month after a bill by Del. Wren Williams, R-Patrick County, was approved by the General Assembly to ease state regulations that would allow for a quicker path to reopening the hospital that was shuttered five years ago. 

Foresight registered with the State Corporation Commission on Feb. 22. Documents list an address at 303 E. Wacker Drive in Chicago, a 30-story, 944,000 square-foot office building located on the riverfront in the Loop that, according to the owner’s website, offers “excellent views of the Chicago River, Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline.”

State records list 45-year-old Suhail as the main contact at Foresight. On his profile on the personal web hosting platform about.me, Suhail is identified as the company’s president and CEO. The website further states that Suhail owns and operates “multiple healthcare businesses in Illinois and runs a medical school in the Caribbean,” and that he is “passionate about equal access to healthcare, ensuring that everyone receives high-quality healthcare services regardless of where they live or their socio-economic condition.” 

Suhail said in the email that he is Foresight Health’s sole owner, but that he would “welcome opportunities to bring in additional investors in ways that make sense” for the hospital. “We have a terrific leadership team and are currently working to expand this team with local healthcare leaders that have extensive experience in providing healthcare services in rural environments,” he said.

Suhail’s plan is to reopen the property as a critical access hospital while offering additional healthcare services, he said. “It is our priority to invest in this community in a meaningful way by bringing high quality healthcare services. To do that, we believe the first step is engaging the people in Patrick County, Southside, and Southwest Virginia and learning what it is that they need and want.” 

The 25-bed facility in Stuart closed its doors in 2017, more than a year after its owner, Mississippi-based Pioneer Health Services, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Patrick County residents were left without a community hospital. 

Not surprisingly, local stakeholders such as Williams and county supervisors welcomed Foresight Health’s takeover of the shuttered hospital, likely unaware that the new company’s CEO is facing several legal issues back home in Illinois.

According to a report by the Chicago based nonprofit news platform Block Club and the Better Government Association from April of last year, Suhail owns at least four companies connected with Chicago’s Loretto Hospital, which has been at the center of several controversies – including a vaccination scandal – and an investigation by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The report revealed millions of dollars in insider contracts and raised questions about oversight by the hospital’s board.

The Illinois Attorney General’s Office launched its probe following reports that Suhail – a close associate of Loretto Hospital’s former chief financial officer Dr. Anosh Ahmed – won contracts worth $4 million from the nonprofit hospital while Loretto board members took hospital-funded Carribean trips, among other benefits.

Originally founded in 1923, Loretto Hospital serves over 33,000 patients annually from Chicago’s Austin community area, a low-income, majority Black neighborhood that came in 12th among Chicago’s 77 community areas for violent crimes per capita in 2017, according to the community’s Quality-of-Life Plan published in 2018. 

The reporters found that Loretto paid millions of dollars to three companies founded in 2018 by Suhail that were listed as “independent contractors” on the hospital’s tax statements for fiscal 2018. One of these companies – One Health Billing Co., headquartered at Chicago’s Trump Tower, that at the time was not registered with the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office – received $2.1 million from Loretto. 

The news platform also located two federal grand jury subpoenas issued to the Illinois Department of Public Health in May and September 2021 after the reporters revealed that the hospital vaccinated ineligible people at Trump Tower, where Ahmed and Suhail lived. Ahmed was forced out of his position with the hospital amidst the scandal, but no link was established to Suhail.

The exact scope of the investigation remains unclear, and a spokesperson with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office did not respond to emails and calls inquiring about the status of the probe.

According to the biography on his website, Suhail has been involved in the health care field since receiving a medical degree from the St. Christopher’s College of Medicine at El Hadji Ibrahima Niasse University in Dakar, Senegal. He established his first company in 2007, American International Clinical Group (AICG), which he says became “a nationwide success.” On its website, the company states that its mission is to provide medical students, graduates and practicing physicians around the globe “with top notch clinical training in certified teaching hospitals.”

In 2013, Suhail began “investing in and acquiring a diverse portfolio of healthcare businesses, first venturing into medical imaging services regulated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as Independent Diagnostic Testing Facilities (IDTFs),” the website states, adding that Suhail has since purchased a pharmacy and has “expanded into dialysis care, billing and collecting, medical facility and physician practice management, and healthcare consulting.”

Later that year, AICG and its sister company APGME Corp. – also led by Suhail – purchased the scandal-ridden Sacred Heart Hospital on Chicago’s West Side at auction for $250,000 with the intention to demolish the shuttered facility. According to a report by Chicago Business, the hospital’s previous owners were embroiled in a fraud investigation, stripped of its state license and denied payments from the federal agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid, eventually leading to a bankruptcy filing and criminal charges.

Suhail told the magazine in 2013 that he considered pouring $20 million to $30 million into a new health care hub, including facilities for primary care or outpatient services or an oncology center, but nothing ever came of it and he later abandoned this plan. 

Suhail’s website also states that he provides mobile medical imaging services to residents of Chicago’s Austin and Jackson Park communities, and as the CEO of Metropolitan Behavioral Associates, a psychiatric physician group that offers much-needed treatment options for patients who need various mental health treatments, he oversees the day-to-day workings of the medical practice. 

Suhail said in the email that he first heard of the vacant Patrick County hospital property in talking with some business friends. “I immediately saw the potential for a great opportunity to bring a healthcare facility to a community that needs it,” he said. 

Suhail’s efforts to reopen the hospital will likely benefit from legislation filed in January by Williams, a resident of Stuart, that secured the former hospital’s license as an acute care and critical access provider – which was set to expire at the end of 2017 – for a future owner to resume operating a similar hospital in Patrick. House Bill 305 passed both chambers of the General Assembly with unanimous support and was signed into law by Gov. Glenn Youngkin last month.

Williams said in an email Thursday that he has met with Suhail and his associates twice – once at a meeting between the Chicagoan’s team and economic and health care leaders in Richmond on Feb. 17, and once at a meet-and-greet in Patrick County on April 13, when Suhail came to introduce himself and his coworkers to community leaders.

Williams said that he first learned of Suhail’s interest in the hospital “shortly after we started generating buzz around the hospital in January-February” when Joseph Hylak-Reinholtz, Foresight Health’s general counsel, reached out to his office. 

Erik Bodin, the director of Division of Certificate of Public Need with the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Licensure and Certification, said in an email that the department has had no communications with Foresight Health and that he had no information on who facilitated the purchase of the property. “However, we are aware that Delegate Williams was involved at some level,” Bodin said.

But Williams says he had no involvement with the purchase of the property. “Our position has been to advocate for Patrick County and streamline the path to restoring healthcare access here,” he said in the email. He added that neither Suhail nor his associates asked him to file his legislation securing the hospital’s license for a future healthcare provider. “That was our idea,” he said. “We wanted to make it as easy and straightforward as possible to reopen the hospital to perform in the same capacities as it had before it closed.” 

Suhail also stated that Williams played no role in the purchase of the property.

Williams added that he wasn’t aware of Suhail’s connection to the Loretto Hospital investigations in Chicago, but that he wants to see the probes conclude. “If there are ramifications, what that means for the path forward as far as restoring health care access to Patrick County. That’s what my concern is,” he said.

Suhail said that while his plans are still “in development and dependent in large part on the needs of the community,” Foresight Health is “100% committed to investing in bringing a high quality healthcare facility and elite healthcare services to Patrick County.” 

Suhail also won’t rule out expanding into other parts of the commonwealth. “Our mission is to bring healthcare services to communities that need them, and so we have been and will continue to explore opportunities to do just that, especially in Southside and Southwest Virginia,” he said.

Markus Schmidt

Markus Schmidt is a reporter for Cardinal News. Reach him at markus@cardinalnews.org.