The former CEO of the shuttered Pioneer Community Hospital in Patrick County has joined the team at Foresight Health, the newly founded company that purchased the 10-acre property earlier this year. As the director of development, Jeanette Filpi said that she is in charge of making sure that Foresight will meet its goal to reopen the hospital as its first critical access facility in early 2023.
“When a hospital closes, it’s devastating, it’s a very anxiety-provoking time for any small community,” Filpi said of the hospital she ran until five years ago, when the previous owner, Mississippi-based Pioneer Health Services, closed the facility in Stuart more than a year after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. “But to come back and be able to help open it back up is very exciting,” Filpi told Cardinal News in an interview Wednesday.
A 30-year veteran in healthcare, where she gathered extensive experience from being a clinician in physical therapy to various administrative roles, Filpi moved to Patrick County in 2012 from South Carolina to accept the top job at Pioneer Community Hospital. “I was with several larger hospitals, but as years progressed I found that supporting rural healthcare is my niche, because I enjoy working to keep rural hospitals alive and well,” she said.
After the hospital shut down in September 2017, Filpi stayed on for a while to assist Pioneer Health Services with the closure and to help with the process of extending the license that would allow a future owner to continue to operate the facility. “The hospital did very well, operationally it was viable, but the company itself hit hard times, and we went down with the ship, unfortunately,” Filpi said.
Since, Filpi has been traveling to Alabama and Colorado, where she helped open other rural hospitals for other companies. “I still live in Patrick County, my husband works here; for the last five years I have been commuting to different projects.”
When Foresight Health purchased the 10-acre property in spring from Virginia Community Capital, the hospital’s creditor, for $2.1 million, Filpi said that she was introduced to Foresight CEO Sameer Suhail, an entrepreneur from Chicago who founded the company in February after hearing about the vacant property.
Suhail has faced scrutiny back home in Illinois after he was connected to conduct that is in the focus of several state and federal legal probes, but he has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and he has since won the trust of local stakeholders who were initially skeptical.
Joseph Hylak-Reinholtz, the company’s chief operations officer and general counsel, told Cardinal News in July that more than 100 prospective candidates applied for job openings at the new critical access facility since the company started hiring in June, including several people who had worked at the hospital when it was shuttered – among them Filpi.
In her new role, Filpi said she reports to both Suhail and Hylak-Reinholtz. “The helm is Sameer, but he is a very busy businessman. The second in command is Joe, so I have more conversations with Joe who then talks to Sameer,” Filpi said. “They don’t seem to put a lot into titles but they always emphasize project completion.”
For now, Foresight Health remains on track for the hospital’s planned opening by Jan. 31. The company plans to open in several phases, beginning with an emergency room with five staffed beds – a number that can be ramped up if necessary – followed by a psychiatric program and, later, an outpatient oncology unit and infusion services.
Last week, the company submitted its Certificate of Public Need (COPN) application for the psychiatric and substance abuse unit.
COPN is a program launched in the 1970s by federal mandate that requires providers seeking to open or expand a healthcare facility to receive approval from a regulatory body to prove that a community needs the services the facility would deliver. Its original purpose was to control cost and increase access to care.
The application filed will allow for the introduction of psychiatric and substance abuse treatment services with 10 inpatient beds in the soon-to-be Patrick County hospital, according to a news release by Foresight.
“The people of Patrick County have lived without a local hospital for over five years,” Suhail said in the statement. “This step brings us closer to returning the health care services that the people of Southside and Southwest Virginia deserve. We will continue diligently working until the hospital doors are open.”
The filing of the COPN follows a flurry of activity and community involvement from Foresight Health leadership, including an open town hall meeting hosted by Del. Wren Williams, R-Patrick County, to discuss service line options, a roundtable talk with community emergency services leaders, numerous meetings with community stakeholders in Southside and Southwest Virginia, and the hosting of a check signing ceremony with Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem.
Both lawmakers two weeks ago presented a $600,000 check in federal dollars to the Patrick County Economic Development Authority, which intends to use it to fund a second mobile health unit in the area.
Filpi applauded this bipartisan effort and also thanked the state government for backing the project. “I believe the state agencies are extremely supportive of what we are doing, they are generally supportive of rural healthcare,” she said. “Virginia is being a model for others to look at, and you see that at all levels,” she said.
Filpi said that while Foresight was on schedule to open as planned, “there are always obstacles” when opening a project of this size. “Especially coming out of a pandemic, you have supply chain shortages and workforce shortages, but while our motivation is to make sure to open by that timeline, there are things that are out of our control,” she said.
Once the hospital opens, Filpi said that she would be willing to consider staying on in the role that she formerly held until she left five years ago. “I would be open to being CEO,” she said. “Patrick County is my home, I have lived there since 2012. It’s a wonderful community.”