UPDATE: Independent children’s hospital no longer a thing

After much consideration, the proposal for a freestanding collaborative hospital for children has been politely declined.

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Update #2 — May 21, 2015; 1:58 PM


VCU, VCU Health System, and Bon Secours have decided that the independent children’s hospital (“ICH”) just isn’t going to fly.

In a statement issued earlier today, VCU and VCU Health System president Michael Rao explains that the healthcare industry is moving more towards collaborative care models (i.e. different health systems working together) instead of an actual freestanding collaborative structure, within which healthcare would be given.

Bon Secours Richmond Health System CEO Toni Ardabell also cites funding concerns–“Cuts to hospitals under federal and other programs, coupled with labor cost increases and cost savings required by commercial insurance payers, have placed additional pressures on both of our systems as we continue to care for the underserved in our community.”

In a nutshell: the future is not in new super-hospitals, but in more outpatient settings. And also, they can’t / don’t want to afford it.

A dream dashed for some, but perhaps a disaster averted? The full release follows.

VCU, VCU Health System and Bon Secours to explore collaborations advancing children’s health

After thorough review, proposed independent children’s hospital determined not feasible

Virginia Commonwealth University, VCU Health System and Bon Secours Richmond Health System today announced that after significant review they believe the proposed freestanding independent children’s hospital (“ICH”) model is not a viable approach for Richmond. More importantly, the two systems have agreed to refocus their efforts to advance children’s health through greater collaboration on initiatives that improve access to and coordination of care for all children.

“We have thoroughly and collaboratively explored the possibilities for creating an independent children’s hospital,” said Michael Rao, Ph.D., president, VCU and the VCU Health System. “The health systems concluded that continuing instability in the health care industry and changes in best practice health care models were key forces driving the decision to focus on collaborative care rather than a freestanding ICH facility.”

“Cuts to hospitals under federal and other programs, coupled with labor cost increases and cost savings required by commercial insurance payers, have placed additional pressures on both of our systems as we continue to care for the underserved in our community,” said Toni Ardabell, CEO of Bon Secours Richmond Health System. “If the ICH falls short on funding, there would be negative consequences to consumers and commercial and government payers.”

In addition, both health systems stated that the proposed independent model already may be outdated as national and local health care industry trends are moving away from stand-alone facilities toward consolidation and coordinated care networks that leverage existing facilities and promote more outpatient and home-based programs. They noted that more than 90 percent of pediatric care takes place in outpatient settings.

“The health care industry is transforming from a hospital-centric model to one focused on prevention and wellness through greater sharing of information among providers. Collaboration among all providers is the key to advancing children’s health in Richmond,” explained Ardabell.

Rao and Ardabell thanked community philanthropists, especially Bill and Alice Goodwin, as well as pediatricians and pediatric specialists for shining a spotlight on children’s health and motivating everyone to roll up their sleeves and sincerely explore an independent children’s hospital. “We have learned a lot about the needs and desires of patients, families, caregivers, community pediatricians and pediatric specialists, and the importance of focusing on access to and coordination of care for all children,” said Rao.

While remaining individual health systems with their own distinct missions, the two organizations have agreed to work together for the good of the community and to advance children’s health care in Richmond, with the opportunity for wide participation of health care and other organizations across central Virginia.

“We will continue to commit significant resources to build on our existing clinical, teaching and research foundations, and explore more opportunities to create integrated and collaborative networks, based on the collective strengths of the current pediatric health resources in the community,” said Rao. “We heard loud and clear during this process that the most important among these is to collaborate to eliminate barriers to navigation and fragmentation of services, especially in the care of our sickest children. Other examples might be collaborations that involve shared technology, childhood obesity, asthma and violence prevention.”

“This process has helped promote an important dialogue within the community and has helped to forge valuable partnerships,” Ardabell said. “We pledge to the parents and children of greater Richmond and central Virginia that we will always strive for excellence and to grow pediatric specialty care in collaborative ways that will benefit all children and their families.”

Ardabell added, “We also pledge to the community of pediatric health care providers continued cooperation between VCU, Bon Secours and others in the sharing of benchmarks, research and care models, and a continued effort to look for synergistic ways to improve the health of our children and the community as a whole.”

— ∮∮∮ —

Update #1 — March 19, 2014; 11:03 AM

The Board of Directors of VCU Health Systems voted 17-3 on Tuesday in favor of entering “formal discussions with interested parties that could lead to an independent, free-standing children’s hospital in Richmond,” read a VCU press release.

This is big news for proponents for an independent children’s hospital in Richmond, the most influential of which being PACKids (see below).

The VCU Health Systems had previously argued that a children’s hospital should operate under its existing health system. PACKids countered that a free standing hospital was better.

Comments from VCU president Michael Rao indicate that VCU Health Systems may now agree with PACKids.

“Discussions with interested parties over the past few months have led to the real potential for an independent, free-standing children’s hospital that supports our inviolate missions of patient care, medical education, and research,” Rao said in a press release. “We are ready to take the discussions to the next level toward a community-based children’s hospital that enhances pediatric medical education, pediatric research, and advances children’s health care in Central Virginia and beyond.”

VCU Health System provided no indication as to when those discussions would take place, or who would be involved.

— ∮∮∮ —

Original — June 11, 2013

Today VCU Health Systems announced “that it has proposed a model for a new, free-standing children’s hospital to the VCU Health System Authority for its consideration.” Seems great, right? Who wouldn’t want a hospital dedicated to helping kids. The whole story behind Richmond’s lack of a free-standing, comprehensive children’s hospital is complicated and involves many of the city’s major players.

Here are a couple of must-reads to help you familiarize yourself with what’s happening and to put some context around today’s announcement.

PACKids remains focused on collaboration to build one independent hospital for central Virginia’s children

PACKids welcomes the announcement by VCU Health System in regards to building a free-standing hospital for children. Our board believes this is absolutely a step in the right direction, a step toward collaboration and solution finding with all the healthcare systems.

PACKids’ goal has always been a collaborative effort with all the health systems, the community, and our pediatricians, working together to build a successful, sustainable, world- class independent hospital for all Virginia’s children. With VCU now stepping up to the plate, we know we can make it happen.

PACKids looks forward to working with the healthcare systems and the philanthropic community to make sure we avoid the mistakes of other cities where competing children’s hospitals have been built. We have one chance to do this right and we believe we can work together to make the right decisions for our children and our families.

We look forward to pulling together a task force that can begin working on the details with VCU, Bon Secours and HCA along with interested community members. This is truly a monumental day for Virginia’s families.

Photo by: taberandrew

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