Burnette says region will benefit

Published 8:47 am Thursday, April 7, 2016

The administrator of South Hill’s hospital said its becoming part of VCU Medical Center is a boon to Southside Virginia.

W. Scott Burnette, CEO of VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill, said the union with the Medical College of Virginia system has already allowed the hospital to attract doctors and improve the level of healthcare for the region by improving access to specialists.

The Virginia Commonwealth University Health System is adding South Hill’s Community Memorial Healthcenter to its operation — a project that means an $82 million investment of staff, facilities and equipment to the community. Groundbreaking for the new 166,700-square-foot facility was held in late October.

The hospital will be renamed VCU Community Memorial Hospital, and will continue to draw from central and southern Virginia and parts of North Carolina.

“It’s really going to be wonderful for this region,” Burnette told members of the Lunenburg County Chamber of Commerce at its monthly luncheon on Thursday at the Virginia Restaurant in Victoria.

He said MCV officials “have fallen over themselves to do everything they could to serve Southside Virginia.”

The new facility will have 70 private patient rooms including 10 intensive/coronary care rooms, three operating suites, a Cesarean section suite, an emergency department with 16 bays and a cardiac cath lab. There is also already space for additional rooms at the hospital, and creation of additional facilities. “This will be a significant improvement from what we were offering,” Burnette said.

Since the merger was announced, the hospital has been able to recruit a cardiologist, and another who will join the staff in July, he said. They have also landed a pulmonologist — a position that Burnette said has not been on the hospital’s staff in the 17 years he has been there.

The physicians help fight respiratory disease, and the need is high in this region, he said.

“People are dying from these types of illnesses,” Burnette said.

The hospital still struggles to attract some of the physicians it wants, such as family practitioners, Burnette said. “We can’t find family practitioners,” Burnette said. “They are in demand in every hospital.”

But the association makes it easier by making the region more attractive, because the doctor will not be alone, but will be part of the VCU team, he said.

The hospital has worked closely with VCU to make sure any patients transferred between South Hill and Richmond have their medical information available before they arrive, Burnette said. Beginning in 2017, that process will be done completely electronically without delay because VCU Health and CMH have committed to being on the same electronic record system.

“If you see any VCU-MCV physician they will all have access to your records,” Burnette said. “It’s just like you’re going down the hall instead of going to another whole foreign hospital.”

Meanwhile, Burnette said many people ask him what will become of the old hospital. That decision has not been made, he said. “We’re still looking at options,” he said.

But one thing is for sure, he said: “We will not leave an abandoned building in the center of town.”