Bon Secours’ hospital proposal in Suffolk gets an edge over Sentara’s expansion request

Bon Secours Harbour View Hospital

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. 



Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center will file certificate of need on new $534 million inpatient building

Credit: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center


The new building, which will house 345,000 square feet of space, is their first new building in 20 years, the system says.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center will spend $534 million to build a new inpatient tower at their Longwood Medical Center Campus, the system announced.

The new 10-story, 345,000 square foot building will be BIDMC’s first in 20 years and will be located on their West Campus.

It will house single-bedd, family-friendly patient rooms, including up to 128 medical-surgical patient rooms, some of which will replace double-bedded rooms elsewhere on BIDMC’s West Campus. It will also hold 30 intensive care unit rooms ideal for privacy and complex medical care.

Large surgical suites and diagnostic and procedural suites to handle acute care patients as well as a medical helicopter landing pad to support the level 1 trauma center will also be part of the new building.

To benefit patients, caregivers and families and continue environmental stewardship efforts, an accessible rooftop green space and healing garden will be available as well.

The announcement that the system will file a certificate of need this month comes as BIDMC’s parent company CareGroup moves ahead with a major merger that will yield a new system that also includes Lahey Health facilities and a stand-alone hospital in Newburyport. The system would be the second largest in the region following Partners Healthcare.

Last month, the Massachusetts Department of Health officially greenlighted the proposed merger, with the Public Health Council voting unanimously in favor of the deal. The Health Policy Commission and leaders in the proposed new system are working on a cost and market impact report, which would gauge the impact of the merger. That report is expected in mid-June.