Alliance retreat on children’s hospital turns focus to VCU – Richmond Times-Dispatch
Businessman and philanthropist William Goodwin on Tuesday said it was sad and a shame that the regionâs hospital systems could not come together to develop a childrenâs hospital.
The Virginia Childrenâs Hospital Allianceâs Katherine Busser on Monday told Richmond City Council members not to hold aside land on the Boulevard being considered as a site for a childrenâs hospital and that the alliance was suspending for now its full-time effort to pursue the project.
âI donât think the alliance is doing anything other than what they need to do,â Goodwin said. âThe issue is VCU and Bon Secours said they are not going to cooperate. I donât know how you can have a childrenâs hospital without their cooperation.
âItâs a shame that we canât get together. Itâs really sad. I think itâs sad and an inability to work together for the good of the whole community. Thatâs 100 percent of the problem.â
Goodwin and his wife, Alice Goodwin, had indicated that they would donate funds to cover about a third of the cost to build the facility, projected to have a price tag of $400 million to $500 million.
As for that donation, Goodwin on Tuesday said, âI donât think itâs going to happen.â
The allianceâs retreat turns attention to VCU, where officials have indicated their recent strategic planning includes discussion of an inpatient pediatric facility.
âThe vision of the future is really about care thatâs extended out, and we â VCU â canât deliver world-class pediatrics alone,â said Dr. Marsha D. Rappley, who took over as CEO of the VCU Health System in August.
âReally, itâs going to take all of the people that stepped up and declared their commitment and their passion to serving our children in the very best way possible. Itâs going to take all of us together,â said Rappley, a pediatrician.
The alliance, a nonprofit created to broker the discussions between the hospital systems and community partners, had been working for more than a year to get agreement on developing a free-standing childrenâs hospital that would be controlled by an independent governing body with representatives from the health systems and the community. In October 2014, the Virginia Commonwealth University and Bon Secours health systems announced that they were willing to talk and signed a memorandum of understanding. But the two health systems unexpectedly withdrew from those talks in May.
They gave as reasons the cost of such a project, the changing health care marketplace, lack of Medicaid expansion in Virginia, and the proposed governance structure.
Though disappointed, Busser, the allianceâs CEO, and chairman Wallace B. Millner at the time said their efforts were continuing. The groupâs decision to scale back for now came in recent weeks. They had been working against a deadline of early December to file a letter with state health facilities regulators to indicate their intentions.
Efforts to develop a free-standing childrenâs hospital for the Richmond region date back decades. Pediatricians Associated to Care for Kids, a grassroots organization of doctors, was the catalyst for the most recent push.
The doctors came together after another disappointment. VCU and the small, specialty Childrenâs Hospital of Richmond located on Brook Road announced in 2005 plans to build a childrenâs hospital at 10th and Broad Street, only to reverse course in 2007, saying the project had become too expensive.
VCU later, in 2010, acquired Childrenâs Hospital and rebranded VCUâs pediatrics services as Childrenâs Hospital of Richmond at VCU. The parcel at 10th and Broad Streets is the location of a new outpatient childrenâs pavilion slated to open next year.
The PACKids members and supporters want an inpatient facility that has its own campus and is open to all the doctors in the region and their patients. In order to develop top-tier pediatrics programs, they maintain that the pediatric patient volume has to be concentrated in one facility â not spread among three hospital systems as is currently the case.
âWe were not willing to give up the fight because the need hasnât changed,â said PACKids supporter Anne Maliff of Powhatan County, who has a child with special medical needs. âItâs motivated a lot of us now to pull together more than ever.â
When VCU and Bon Secours pulled out of the talks, the health systems announced they would collaborate on some child health projects, including care collaboration. Asked recently about what projects they are collaborating on, the health systems and HCA Virginia in October responded with a joint statement that said:
âRichmondâs three health systems â Bon Secours Richmond Health System, HCA Virginia Health System and VCU Health â are working together to achieve greater continuity and coordination of childrenâs health care needs in the Richmond area. While this team in the future will collaborate on asthma, obesity, and violence prevention, their initial focus is navigation and care coordination for children who have complex medical conditions. The work is quite extensive and discussions include such things as a comprehensive needs assessment, asset mapping of existing pediatric health community resources, and developing standard clinical protocols. One deliverable of the team that we talked about previously is to create a simple, sustainable Web application for navigating the pediatric health resources in our community that would be relevant and usable by all families with children.â
Maliff said she has not seen evidence of collaboration.
âThe Childrenâs Hospital Foundation pledged $28 million to VCU for a new cardiology program and yet one of (VCUâs) top cardiologists left to go with (University of Virginia). Itâs not giving the community a sense of confidence in whatâs happening in our market,â Maliff said.
âLast week we went on a tour at Bon Secours and they showed us their new pediatric infusion wing. The (pediatric) oncology patients used to exclusively be treated at VCU. Now we are seeing them at Bon Secours, which just shows me these institutions are buildings these silos. Itâs an arms race of pediatrics care and they are competing fiercely.â
Rappley said VCUâs planning is broader, including pediatrics, cardiology and cancer facilities.
âWe are looking at different plans and different scenarios and thinking about logistics of parking, traffic access, pedestrian walkways as well as the kind of proximity if you need services close to one another, for example obstetrics and high-risk OB and neonatal, things like that,â she said. âThatâs part of our planning, to look at how we assemble this full set of buildings.â
Goodwin said if VCU pursues a childrenâs hospital on its own, âThey will spend a lot of money and not solve the problem.â
âThe next thing you know you will have three hospital systems that will have spent a lot of money, more money than you would spend if you put it together, and they still wonât be giving the kind of care they should because itâs still fragmented,â Goodwin said.
In a statement Tuesday, Bon Secours said: âBon Secours has long been a strong proponent of children and families in our community, providing excellent and accessible care across the greater Richmond area. Enhancements to our pediatric services have been a continued effort for many years, including 24/7 emergency care dedicated to children, and specialty care and programs across the continuum.
âWe also continue to honor our commitment to collaboration with other local health organizations to close gaps in the coordination of care for the benefit all children and families.â