HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- Recently announced plans for a new hospital in Hanover County are already making rounds through the community, with many residents optimistic about the project while others are concerned about its potential impact on the surrounding area.
Henrico Doctors' Hospital, under the health system HCA Virginia, wants to bring a medical care facility called Ashland Hospital to Sliding Hill Road right off Interstate 95. HCA spokesperson Pryor Green said the full-service hospital would feature 60 inpatient beds, four general-purpose operating rooms, one CT scanner, one MRI scanner, one cardiac catheterization lab and an emergency department.
Green said the project aims to serve patients who seek care at Henrico Doctors' Hospital at a location closer to their homes. Henrico Doctors' Hospital is located about eight miles away from the proposed Ashland site.
“Personally, I think it’s a great idea," said longtime Hanover resident Pam Teates. "It gives an alternative to the other hospital that's located in Hanover, and I think Hanover is growing-- a lot of citizens and a lot of services."
The other Hanover hospital Teates referenced is Bon Secours' Memorial Regional Medical Center located in Mechanicsville, about five miles away from the proposed site.
Teates said she believes the additional facility might help relieve other nearby hospitals in the long run. Central Virginia hospital systems including HCA, VCU and Bon Secours are currently overwhelmed, a trend that's been intensified since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patients have shared stories with the CBS 6 Problem Solvers of waiting in ER waiting rooms for hours on end and a Richmond area nurse, who wanted to remain anonymous, said hospitals consistently have no available beds and that urgent cares are also packed.
“I have frequented one of the hospitals in the area, and we had a five-six hour wait with a lot of other people waiting for beds to open," said Hanover resident Karen Zingaro, who said she would like to have another hospital nearby.
In a letter to State Health Commissioner Dr. Colin Greene, who must certify the public need for the Ashland Hospital, Hanover Fire Chief Jethro Piland expressed his support for the project.
Piland said the ability of crews to transport patients to the closest possible hospital during an emergency can be a lifesaver.
"Service to citizens and medical facility availability is, for me, hand in hand with what we do to support our community," Piland said during an interview with CBS 6 Thursday. "Having an additional facility will provide more opportunities for our ambulances. One, it's more choices for our residents. But two, it provides quicker access, especially since we drive up and down Interstate 95, Route 1, Route 301."
Piland said the additional resource would likely help crews reduce response times, reduce transport times, and improve turnaround times.
"From the time we're dispatched, through the on-scene treatment, transporting them to their hospital destination, and then getting a quality transfer of care, decoding and cleaning our ambulances, getting them restocked, and getting them back out in the game to handle the next emergency," Piland said. "That's a long-winded answer to tell you that more resources help us be more efficient with our service to the community."
He added it could also "share the burden" with other regional hospitals that become full.
Faye Prichard, the Hanover County Supervisor representing the Ashland District, said community voices would be heavily involved in an engagement process as the county proceeds with plans.
She said she understood some neighbors along Sliding Hill Road will have concerns about the hospital bringing traffic to the area. She said the corridor has been "inundated with development," but residents should know the medical facility would be "community-sized," not a campus.
“Having something of this size takes away a little fear of development because it’s not meant to overwhelm the community," Prichard said. "It's meant to be a complement to the community. It’s meant to be a part of the community.”
She said all traffic concerns will be taken "very, very seriously" and that a traffic study would be conducted for the area.
"Just make sure that the roads are being improved and to alleviate the traffic that it will bring," Zingaro said.
But Teates said she's not worried about the extra cars on Sliding Hill.
"I think the service benefits, and the contribution to the community would outweigh the extra traffic," Teates said.
The first opportunity for the public to weigh in will be on January 17 at a meeting at Chickahominy Middle School at 6:30 p.m.
You can read the county's announcement of the project here.