The nonprofit seeking to build an independent children's hospital for the region has decided to postpone its effort to win state approval for the facility, its former CEO told City Council at Monday's meeting.
“Unfortunately, our efforts to reestablish a partnership with the key healthcare systems and discussions related to alternative options have not yielded the options we need to move forward under the current timeline,” says Katherine Busser, CEO of the Virginia Children's Hospital Alliance.
The alliance was facing a Dec. 2 deadline to submit a letter to the state health commissioenr declaring its intent to seek a certificate of public need for such a hospital. Busser says the nonprofit is still intact, but it no longer has a full-time staff. Busser will join the board and, along with other former employees, will work "on a pro-bono basis" to try to advance the effort.
“We still have a lot of very interested people … we just need more time," she says.
Pediatricians Associated to Care for Kids chairman Dr. Keith Derco says the grassroots organization isn't going away. Its members still believe the region must improve healthcare for children, he says. The way he sees it, "The project isn't really over until Bill Goodwin says its over."
Goodwin and his wife, Alice, pledged $150 million toward the construction of a facility. Asked whether he has the final say so, Goodwin responds: "That's not true. I'm just a citizen. We're at a proverbial standstill right now. We can't do anything without agreement from Bon Secours and VCU. I believe they should cooperate."
In May, the Virginia Commonwealth University and Bon Secours health systems pulled out of talks with the alliance to develop an independent children's hospital. The health systems cited long-term cost concerns approaching $1 billion.
The alliance, buoyed by community support and a nod from Mayor Dwight Jones' administration, spent the summer and fall exploring other options and trying to get the health systems to come back to the table. It was unsuccessful, Busser says.
Over the summer, Busser and Jones requested that council delay moving forward with development of the coveted city-owned Boulevard site, where the Diamond currently stands. Advocates for the project and Mayor Jones believed the site is best suited for the project because of its central location and proximity to underserved populations. On Monday, Busser told City Council that the group could no longer ask council members to wait.
The next chance the group could submit a letter of intent to the state health commissioner is May 2016.