ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY, Va. — Emergency care isn't as close as residents in Surry and Isle of Wight counties would like.
"The Virginia State Medical Facilities Plan states that residents should have access to an inpatient hospital within 30 minutes and we know that's not happening today," said Jessica Macalino, the associate vice president of cardiovascular and pulmonary services at Riverside Health System.
Macalino said over the past two years, 6,000 residents from Surry and Isle of Wight Counties traveled more than 30 minutes to get to Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News. More than half of them needed emergency services.
"Because of that, both counties are designated by the federal government as 'medically underserved' with a shortage of healthcare providers," she said.
That creates great concerns.
"Residents that live in areas designated to be medically underserved already are at a higher risk of diabetes, obesity, late stage cancers, untreated mental health," Macalino said.
That's why the health system is looking to construct a new hospital called Riverside Smithfield Hospital in Isle of Wight County.
They filed an application with VDH for a Certificate of Public Need. Leaders want to build a 50-bed acute care facility costing about $100 million.
It will also offer emergency services, labor and delivery, a level one neonatal nursery and imaging services. Macalino said the project is already generating lots of support from residents.
"We're excited to create more jobs but most and foremost we're excited to bring local residents the care they need," she said.
In order to get this project up and running, they'll need approval from the Virginia Department of Health. The Division of Certificate of Public Need through VDH will hold a virtual public hearing Wednesday morning on the proposal.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver will have the final say. A decision could come by the end of the year or early next year.
If approved, the goal is for the facility to open by 2025.