Ongoing questions and concerns concerning the opening of a proposed hospital have led the Stuart Town Council to hold off on a crucial rezoning request.
On July 19, Town Manager Bryce Simmons advised council members to not move forward with a request to rezone the site designated for the Foresight Hospital of Patrick County on Jeb Stuart Highway. Simmons cited concerns about what he described as a lack of project updates.
Council members unanimously decided to table the request.
“There was no vote,” council member Rebecca Adcock said Monday. “Given some communication that our town manager had, he wasn’t sure that anything was going to move forward in a timely manner to where the council had to make a decision so we just decided to table it.”
This is the most recent development in Foresight Health’s efforts to transform the defunct Pioneer Community Hospital of Patrick County back into a functioning medical facility. The hospital closed its doors in 2017.
Foresight, a company based in Chicago, took over the property in April 2022 and initially said it would reopen the hospital by the end of last year.
By July of last year, it had pushed the reopening to January 2023 but then failed to meet that deadline. Foresight’s director of development told the Patrick County Board of Supervisors during a Jan. 23 meeting that renovations have been more difficult than originally thought.
In March, company president and CEO Sameer Suhail said crews were removing asbestos and making “other necessary facility updates” at the former hospital.
Based on past updates, Foresight plans to open a critical care hospital. Earlier in the year, the company obtained a Certificate of Public Need to open a psychiatric and substance abuse unit, further hinting at the services the hospital might offer. To date, Simmons said he has not received word if these plans have changed.
A Foresight spokesperson contacted Monday declined to comment about the project, instead saying that a company official would be available as early as Aug. 9.
Simmons, who said he last spoke with Foresight officials a couple of months ago, said his suggestion about the rezoning was not meant to cast aspersions on Foresight. Instead, he said, it was a precaution that takes both the town and company into account.
“I think it has more to do with the fact that I wanted the option open for the existing property owner,” Simmons said.
Simmons explained that the property’s current zoning of community/regional/commercial is more versatile than the proposed medical hospital center district zoning. Should Foresight decide to sell the property or make changes to the existing project, Simmons said the current zoning will allow that.
“Right now it’s up in the air what the actual time frame is,” Simmons said. “It makes more sense to keep it where it is because the current zoning … may provide a little bit more flexibility, depending on what the property owners would want to do.”
Simmons said keeping the more flexible zoning classification stems from not knowing what the plans are for the proposed facility.
Ultimately, Simmons said town officials would be more comfortable with an updated plan from Foresight.
“They really haven’t come forward with a plan at this point,” Simmons said, adding that that includes an updated timeline. Previous timelines, as recent as late last year, put the hospital’s opening at around the first quarter of 2023. The project did not meet that deadline.
Since then project officials have not released a concrete deadline for the project’s opening. Simmons, who speculated that the project could go into next year, said that a timeline is one of the assurances he would need to comfortably advise council members to move forward with the rezoning request.
“I would like to see a plan,” Simmons said. “I would like to see a plan or a business proposal.”
Adcock said she is still hopeful, saying she wants to see a completed project.
“I think we’ve all been optimistically hopeful that it is going to open,” she said. “We are wanting some kind of facility. We know there are a lot of hurdles that we need to get over in order to do that.”