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Children's Hospital Deadline: Here's What's at Stake for Richmond 

The Children’s Hospital Alliance has one shot left at approval this year.

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The deadline: Dec. 2.

At Stake: The idea for independent, regional, stand-alone children’s hospital could still have life if proponents can get the OK from the state.

The Assignment: The Children’s Hospital Alliance is putting together a letter requesting a certificate of public need, which is issued by the state health commissioner. All hospitals must have one, in which applicants prove that a potential facility would be accessible for area residents, create an immediate economic impact and be financially feasible. Most importantly, the area served must need enhanced facilities.

The Hurdles: Typically, such an application names a potential owner. This is a problem, because the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System and Bon Secours Richmond Health System backed out of talks to help with the creation of an independent children’s hospital in May. Even though the hospital is envisioned as independent, both organizations would bring needed expertise. The alliance hoped to coax both parties back to the negotiation table. The state also requires applicants to provide details about how a project would be financed. Numbers haven’t been made public, with the exception of a $150 million donation from businessman Bill Goodwin.

Who’s in Favor: The Children’s Hospital Alliance is the local advocacy group submitting the application and is supported by Pediatricians Associated to Care for Kids and Mayor Dwight Jones. A face was put to the issue earlier this month when Brandon Farbstein, a 15-year-old who suffers from a rare form of dwarfism, implored City Council to pass a resolution supporting the project. Farbstein travels as far as three states away to receive care for his condition. After hearing from Farbstein and other families, council members passed the resolution with one change: They struck a clause that called for the city to study economic development around the proposed hospital site on the Boulevard, with the chance of the project’s success still unknown.

Who’s Against: VCU Health System has its own ideas about what children’s care should look like for the region. It plans to open its $168 million Children’s Pavilion on its downtown campus next year. The outpatient facility will have at least 72 examining rooms, two operating and two procedure rooms and 650 parking spaces. But outpatient facilities generally don’t tend to the most severe cases that need overnight care. The health system has a combined 172 beds devoted to pediatric care at VCU’s Children’s Hospital of Richmond downtown, a center on Brook Road for children needing specialized, long-term care and other facilities.

Marsha Rappley, chief executive of VCU Health System, recently expressed support for building an inpatient facility for children that would function as part of the VCU Medical Center. In an emailed statement to Style, she said: “The first step is underway — gathering information from our own health care team and other industry experts about the highest quality experience and care for our patients and families for the next five to 10 years — even 20 years out.”

Why Dec. 2: The Virginia Department of Health groups applicants into categories to ease the application process. For general hospitals, the December date is one of two deadlines for the state to receive the letter. This means that the alliance has only one shot left this year to get the OK from the state. The first deadline was June 1.

What’s Next: After submitting their application, hospital supporters will have 30 days to provide such details as how the project will be financed. The end of the state’s review cycle falls months later on July 19.

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