In a race to build-out hospital services in the northern part of Suffolk, Bon Secours has received an edge over Sentara.
State health staff, who reviewed expansion requests from both health care systems this summer, recently provided a recommendation of conditional approval for Bon Secours. Its proposal seeks to add 18 in-patient beds and four operating rooms to a facility at the Harbour View campus.
The plan calls for a two-story, 76,000-square-foot facility on the northeast corner of Bon Secours Drive and Harbour Towne Parkway. Bon Secours executives say it’s an effort to better reach western Hampton Roads patients and establish a short-stay, surgically focused hospital.
Within days of each other, Bon Secours and Sentara filed letters to state health officials seeking permission to add or move beds to their respective northern Suffolk campuses.
Bon Secours filed its letter of intent first to apply for a “certificate of public need” to move hospital beds and a few surgery rooms from its Maryview Medical Center in downtown Portsmouth. Days later Sentara submitted a similar request for in-patient beds, operating rooms and a CT scanner at its Sentara Belleharbour campus on Route 17 Bridge Road.
That plan would involve moving beds from Sentara Obici Hospital. Hospital executives have said the shift would meet patients closer to where they are: About 14 patients at Obici each day are coming from Belleharbour, said Dr. Steve Julian, president of Obici, in a June interview.
But the Sentara project “duplicates” services already available in the district, according to the state’s review, and would contribute further to the hospital system’s market dominance. Staff recommended denial of the request, stating it could be “harmful to competition in the region.”
In a statement issued through a spokesman, Julian said Sentara was disappointed with the review but would consider next steps in the state’s certificate of public need process.
“We believe our application offered the most benefit for the least cost in a hospital-ready building already under construction,” Julian said in the statement.
The competing mini medical center proposals demonstrate how hospital systems vie for turf – and how the state tries to weigh those requests in the balance of keeping health care costs reasonable for patients.
The state health commissioner will render a final decision on the projects later this year.
Two letters of opposition against the Sentara project appear to have factored into the staff’s preference for the Bon Secours plan.
Dr. Joseph Verdirame, former president of the medical staff at Obici, wrote that, since acquiring Obici, Sentara has migrated many resources away from downtown Portsmouth and central Suffolk to Belleharbour and Sentara Norfolk General. He believes those shifts are detrimental to care in central Suffolk.
In another letter, Virginia Slocum, strategic operations planning manager at Chesapeake Regional Healthcare, said Sentara doesn’t have enough competition and that allowing it to spend more on expansion could drive “increases in health care costs” for consumers.