RICHMOND, Va. -- A new chapter for Bon Secours will start Wednesday as the medical group will officially open the doors of its new medical office building in Richmond's East End.
The two-story medical office building, a $16.5 million project, sits right beside Bon Secours' Richmond Community Hospital, a focal point of a New York Times investigation released in 2022.
The report said Richmond Community Hospital, part of a 340B federal program that allows Bon Secours to get medicine for a discounted price, was said to be lacking adequate resources, and money saved through that federal program was not invested back into the hospital.
Bon Secours Richmond Market President Mike Lutes said the report was misleading and created a "false narrative" at a briefing on Tuesday morning.
"Here me when I say: It inaccurately reflects who we are, what we've done, and what we will continue to do in this community," Lutes said. "Bon Secours invests far more than 100% of 340B savings realized here, on this campus, back into the community."
A graph shared by Bon Secours Richmond said that in 2022, it recorded $55 million in 340B program savings, but tracked $196.2 million total in financial assistance, medical group losses, building equipment and investments and community programs and partnerships.
Bon Secours said one of the ways it plans on investing in the East End is through the new medical office, staffed with 147 workers, offering several exam rooms, behavioral health programs and additional support services.
Cynthia Newbille with Richmond City Council applauded the move.
"I just want to say thank you. Thank you for your commitment to the East End. Thank you for delivering on your agreement to develop a comprehensive, strategic health and wellness plan based on input, from leadership, from the community, from stakeholders, from your staff, from residents. Thank you for that. You said you would and you've done that today," Newbille said.
But others say that it's not enough.
“I think anyone who’s been in Richmond long enough is aware that that is a project that was supposed to have been started and finished years ago. It’s not any adding any sort of medical capability to the hospital, it’s office space" said Tom Barbour with the Richmond City Democratic Committee said. "And the timing of it is a bit suspect. I think it’s more performative than actually making investments in Richmond Community Hospital and our East End neighborhoods the way that the 340B program contemplated initially."
Bon Secours said it's implementing a new three-year program dedicated to tracking the East End's health progress and expanding medical resources.
"Obviously, there's high transparency, there's accountability, and most importantly, it's going to make a tremendous difference to the health status of the community," Lutes said.
Barbour said if that were true, then there would be significant changes to Richmond Community Hospital.
“As the New York Times investigation made clear, it’s been deprived of services, it had its ICU removed, it’s a place where people go with serious conditions and end up getting transferred, sometimes with very bad outcomes, to other hospitals because they had to wait in order to get to a place that could provide them the care that they needed," Barbour said.
The Richmond City Democratic Committee and the Richmond Coalition for Health Equity are hosting a community conversation in the East End to discuss the investigation and next steps. It will take place at Mount Olivet in Church Hill at 6 p.m. Thursday evening.