Despite growing excitement over the possibility of once again having a critical care hospital in Patrick County, an opening date for the facility remains uncertain, with the owner declining to provide specifics and county supervisors differing on what they believe to be the hospital’s timeline for opening.
Located in Stuart, the facility formerly known as Pioneer Community Hospital of Patrick County shut its doors in 2017. Foresight Health, a Chicago-based company, arrived in mid-2022 and took the initial steps to reopen it as a critical care facility.
A critical care hospital emphasizes intensive health care issues such as injuries and infections, among other things.
Last year, Foresight said it planned to open the hospital near the start of 2023. The company acknowledged to county supervisors in a January meeting that this was no longer the case.
“In full transparency, we have encountered issues with internal renovations,” Jeanette Filpi, the company’s director of development, told the board of supervisors on Jan. 23. “As everyone is aware, supply chain issues are a substantial barrier and we’ve had issues with finding key personnel to move us forward in our renovation efforts. We are working to resolve the issues within our control. We admit that we underestimated what would be required to get the hospital ready.”
Filpi didn’t specify a new launch window. Nor did Foresight’s chief operating officer, Joe Hylak-Reinholtz, who confirmed in January that the company plans to move forward with the project. Foresight still maintains a website where people can inquire about employment; Foresight has said it hopes to hire between 200 and 300 people.
Hylak-Reinholtz said the hospital is not only still in the works, but Foresight’s goal is to open it quickly.
“Foresight Health’s goal is to open the hospital as soon as possible, but more importantly to ensure that once open, it stays open,” Hylak-Reinholtz said. “This latter consideration can require additional time on the front end to ensure.”
The lack of a specific date from company officials has led to speculation in the community as to when the facility will formally open its doors.
“The goal is still, I think, by the end of 2023,” county supervisor Brandon Simmons said. He echoed the estimation of the county’s economic development director, Sean Adkins, that “it’ll be closer to the end of the year – it’s a massive overhaul.”
“We didn’t get anything specific,” said Supervisor Doug Perry.
Simmons and Perry believe that there are current factors that weren’t predictable early in the project’s life, such as the lasting economic impact from the pandemic and affected supply chains.
“The last I heard, we are anticipating hopefully by the end of the summer,” Perry said. “That just depends on when they are going to get that construction material in to get it up and running.”
Simmons agreed, saying that the bottleneck is largely the result of difficulties with securing the necessary tools.
“Like other industries out there … you can’t sort of start work right away,” Simmons said.
Hylak-Reinholtz confirmed that the project has its hurdles, including the intricacies of starting a health care facility and construction issues.
“For instance, as most people in this industry are aware, most emergency departments are ultimately not profitable,” he said. “With that in mind, we are putting significant research into which service lines both benefit the people of Patrick and also offset the costs of an emergency department.
“Obviously, the realities of construction and health care approval processes can make it difficult to pinpoint exact timelines, but we are happy with the progress we have made and are looking forward to opening in the near future.”
Foresight officials last year said that they planned to bring a psychiatric program and, later, an outpatient oncology unit and infusion services to Patrick County.
The company did not have to request state permission to reopen the hospital; the usual requirement that a provider obtain a so-called certificate of public need to prove that a new facility is needed in its community was waived through 2022 legislation brought by Del. Wren Williams, R-Patrick County, that sought to expedite the hospital’s reopening.
Foresight did apply in August for a COPN for a 10-bed psychiatric and substance abuse unit; the certification was granted Feb. 7, according to Erik Bodin, who oversees the COPN program at the Virginia Department of Health. Any other new service lines also would require a COPN.
County officials said they believe Foresight can still complete the project.
“I feel pretty good about it, but I’m not sure about it,” Simmons said. “They need to come in with the right set of people who can do the work that they need done. I’m worried like everybody else, but I’m sure they can accomplish it.”
Patrick Supervisor Denise Stirewalt agreed. “I’m confident that the hospital will reopen.”
She later added that she and others appreciate Foresight’s efforts to reopen the facility given the alternative of the building not being used.
“The hospital sat with no prospects for five years, so meeting their ambitious deadline is admirable,” Stirewalt said. “We know this will take time, though. We’re so thankful they purchased it.”
Officials agreed that having a critical-care facility would be worth the wait.
“When you have a situation where time is of the essence and we won’t have to go out Henry County or Martinsville,” Simmons said, “having a care center nearby makes a big difference, I’m sure.”