August 13, 2008

Bon Secours Gets 60 More Days to Weigh Size of Facility


By Nancy Young

The Virginian-Pilot


Bon Secours Hampton Roads may be willing to build a larger replacement for its DePaul Medical Center than the 64-bed hospital it has proposed.

The Roman Catholic health system requested and received a 60-day postponement of a public hearing scheduled for next week on its proposals. The reason: It wants to "resize" DePaul and continue discussions with the city of Norfolk, which has advocated for a larger replacement hospital, said Lynne Zultanky, Bon Secours spokeswoman, on Tuesday.

Bon Secours has been proposing replacing the aging 238-bed DePaul with a smaller hospital so it could build new facilities in northern Suffolk and in Virginia Beach. That proposal drew criticism from Norfolk city officials who said it would be too small to serve the community. In June, they proposed a 134-bed hospital.

"We've had some very, very productive discussions with the folks at DePaul," said Norfolk Mayor Paul D. Fraim on Tuesday. "I think we've agreed on most of the major points, if not all of them."

Both Fraim and Zultanky declined to give details of Bon Secours' new proposal but said they expected an agreement soon. Zultanky said Bon Secours officials would go into more detail about why they decided to change the DePaul proposal at that time.

Earlier this year, the state health commissioner's office - which must approve major health care projects - rejected Bon Secours' proposals for a 54-bed DePaul replacement and the new hospitals in Suffolk and Virginia Beach.

Bon Secours then submitted new proposals for a 64-bed DePaul replacement, a 90-bed hospital in Virginia Beach, and a 48-bed hospital in Suffolk.

In those filings, Bon Secours proposed taking beds only from DePaul for the Virginia Beach hospital instead of also for the Suffolk facility. The 48 Suffolk beds would come out of Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center in Portsmouth. Of DePaul's 238 licensed beds, that leaves 84 in limbo.

Bon Secours officials have said the choice for the financially ailing DePaul - which is expected to lose $7 million in its current fiscal year - was to become much smaller or shut down completely.

The DePaul proposal has concerned many residents in the communities around the hospital at the corner of Granby Street and Kingsley Lane.

"I'm worried about what they're going to do. It's an awful long way to Leigh and to downtown," Jeanette Speight, who lives about 10 minutes from DePaul, said in a recent interview.

Sentara Norfolk General Hospital is about four miles away, while Sentara Leigh Hospital is about 11 miles . That might not seem like a long way to some, "but for an elderly person it is, particularly if they're driving at night," said Jim English, president of the Wards Corner Civic League near DePaul.

Norfolk had officially supported the Bon Secours plan until June, when it publicly broke with the health system and counterproposed an alternate proposal for a 134-bed hospital with a larger emergency department and intensive care unit.

The public hearing had been set for Monday at the Chesapeake Lifestyle Center on the campus of Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, said Michael Byrnes, executive director of the Eastern Virginia Health Systems Agency, which organized the hearing.

Sentara Healthcare, which also had a project scheduled for the hearing, agreed to the postponement, he said.

This is the second delay Bon Secours has requested. The public hearing on the projects originally was scheduled for July, but Bon Secours asked for a 30-day postponement, citing the need to update new leaders on the proposals.

Fraim said Bon Secours officials - including new Hampton Roads chief Michael Kerner - began meeting with the city on resizing DePaul last week and things have progressed quickly since then.

"We're just making sure everybody understands fully," Fraim said.

Nancy Young, (757) 446-2947, [email protected]

size negotiations

Bon Secours is "resizing" its proposed replacement hospital for DePaul. A previous proposal for a 64-bed replacement was countered by a 134-bed proposal from the city of Norfolk.

Originally published by BY NANCY YOUNG.

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