Debate lingers over plans for Richmond children’s hospital

Posted at 11:47 PM, Jun 12, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – While Virginia Commonwealth University moves forward with plan to build a new freestanding children's hospital in Richmond, some doctors are worried it may not be the best option for kids.

Officials think new children's hospital could draw children from across the state and into North Carolina, in addition to the 250,000 children in Central Virginia.

But for that to happen, some believe a partnership is needed between VCU, Bon Secours and HCA Virginia. There is growing concern that will not happen.

Cary Butcher knows firsthand about the need for a standalone children's hospital in Richmond.

"We wouldn't have had to travel to California or to Charlottesville,” said Butcher. “We had two different doctors in two different places, so it would be nice to have everybody together in one spot."

Many believe a successful children's hospital must be independent of the other hospitals in the area and supported by local physicians like Dr. Melissa Nelson.

"We don't want multiple children's hospitals in Richmond,” Nelson said. “We want one children's hospital that takes care of all our children together."

Currently Central Virginia hospitals work with their young patients alongside adults.

"I do not want to see multiple centers where children who live on a bus line go to hospital X and children who have access to a car go to hospital Y,” Nelson said.

To help facilitate one central children's hospital, local philanthropists like Bill Goodwin are willing to donate millions but only if all the hospitals agree.

"But trying to do it where we have each hospital building a lot of brick and mortar, it really won't give them the kind of care that we need long term," Goodwin said.

However, the CEO of VCU Health Systems, Sheldon Retchin, said the hospital “felt that it was best to birth such a hospital within the academic health center."

Additionally, Retchin said that “pediatricians all over the community would be welcomed with privileges to admit their patients to the hospital and participate possibly in the governing of that facility."

However, Goodwin said that his family would only be willing to donate millions if all of the hospital systems came together for the project.

It could be a at least five years before a new children's hospital opens in Central Virginia.