VCU deal expected to boost South Hill hospital
July marks the beginning of a new era for Community Memorial Healthcenter. The South Hill hospital has a new name — VCU Community Memorial Hospital — as a result of a partnership announced in April with Virginia Commonwealth University Health System in Richmond.
As part of the deal, VCU committed a minimum of $75 million toward constructing a new Community hospital building as well as improvements in its health-care technologies, clinical initiatives and physician recruitment efforts.
The partnership is the end product of a process begun two years ago when Community’s board started analyzing the changing health-care environment. “Our payer mix had been changing,” says Scott Burnette, Community’s president and CEO. “Eighty-nine percent of our inpatients were Medicare, Medicaid or they had no insurance.”
The hospital’s affiliation steering committee assessed potential suitors, looking for a long-term partner that would help it create a new health-care facility. “The board looked at the needs of the community and the needs of [the hospital],” says John Duval, CEO of MCV Hospitals and Clinics at VCU. “A number of institutions were invited to submit, and VCU was ultimately selected.”
Hospital officials say the partnership pairs two organizations with similar missions and cultures. “That is how we ended up with VCU Health System,” Burnette says, noting that VCU already had a relationship with his hospital, providing services in South Hill to cancer patients. “It was somebody that we knew,” he says.
Community’ employees now are part of the 9,000-employee VCU Health System workforce, eligible for raises and enhanced benefits package offered by the larger organization.
VCU also will assist Community in recruiting more general surgeons as well as specialty and primary-care physicians.
The new South Hill hospital is expected to open within four years. Community is evaluating a 50-acre tract owned by the hospital to determine whether it will be a suitable location.
“The sooner the better as long as we can do a high-quality job,” says Duval. “The existing facility is from the 1950s. It has been added to and expanded over time. They have done a great job of maintaining it, but it’s time for a more contemporary facility.”
A separate board of directors will continue to oversee the South Hill hospital. It will include 10 members from the community and four from VCU.
“[Community] will become a controlled entity within the health system as opposed to a full asset merger,” Duval says. “It’s important to engage with South Hill and surrounding counties to work together in addressing the health-care needs of the community.”
“This is going to be great for the organization and for the community,” Burnett says. “It significantly enhances our services to the region, and it will bring more clinical research into the area.”