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Nearest hospitals for Isle of Wight patients are at least 30 minutes away. First responders explain why the county needs its own.

The nearest hospitals are in Newport News and Suffolk, but there's a proposed project to build one in Smithfield.

ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY, Va. — In a medical emergency, every second counts. But in Isle of Wight County, it takes 30 minutes or more for first responders to get patients to the hospital.

The nearest hospitals are in Newport News and Suffolk, but there's a proposed project to build one in Smithfield.

Riverside Health System filed an application with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to build an acute care facility costing about $100 million. Emergency Management Coordinator Will Drewery said it's necessary.

"It would drastically change the way we do business," Isle of Wight County Emergency Management Coordinator Will Drewery said.

Drewery said his crews are wasting precious time driving patients to hospitals miles away.

"Oftentimes, we find ourselves in situations where our medics can get to the hospital pretty quickly, but they have a hard time getting back because they are on the other side of the James River Bridge or they're stuck in traffic in Suffolk," he said.

The drive delays them from getting these trucks back in service and ready to respond to another emergency. It could take about 30 minutes or more to transport a patient from anywhere in Isle of Wight County. Surry County is seeing the same problem.

"Having a hospital in the county, in Smithfield, would help us to have trucks back in service a lot quicker," he said.

A new hospital would cut that drive time in half.

"We always say time is muscle," he said. "So, that applies to like a stroke or heart attack. The quicker you can get to somebody to definitive care, the quicker you can save more muscle."

VDH's Division of Certificate of Public Need recommended denying the project Tuesday. It states in the report:

  1. The proposed project is not consistent with the applicable criteria and standards of the State Medical Facilities Plan and the Eight Required Considerations of the Code of Virginia.
  2. There are less costly and more efficient alternatives to the proposed project, including maintenance of the status quo.
  3. The proposed project unnecessarily duplicates existing services already available in surplus in Planning District 20.
  4. There is a calculated surplus of general-purpose operating rooms and medical-surgical beds in Planning District 20.

Drewery and Riverside Health System were disappointed by VDH's recommendation.

Riverside Health System CEO Bill Downey said in a statement, 

"Thousands of residents, the leadership and first responders across Isle of Wight and Surry counties made clear their support, both in personal testimony and in written signature, for Riverside Smithfield Hospital... We will continue to work with those at the Virginia Department of Health and the Commissioner, who will ultimately make the final decision, to clearly demonstrate the public need for Riverside Smithfield Hospital."

State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver has the final say. VDH said barring any delays, Dr. Oliver's decision will be issued by December 8.