A Public Hearing was held this Tuesday for the new medical facility proposed by Eastern Shore Rural Health. Rural Health CEO Nancy Stern fielded questions from the Planning Commission. Ms. Stern also gave a presentation on the project, noting that the new facility would come as a much needed replacement for the smaller facilities now located at Bayview and Franktown. Sterns made the point, however, that the new facility will not replace the emergency room at Shore Memorial, but will only be a primary care facility with expanded services such as Digital X-Ray, Labs, Drug Screening for employers use, dental, and telemedicine assets.
“I would like to state for the record that there will be six other points of review for this…the consolidation allows us to offer ten hour days and Saturday hours, we will also be able to offer digital x-ray which is not offered at the other two facilities, a much larger lab, along with telemedicine. We will be able to expand our economic development by allowing businesses to have corporate accounts. For companies that want to come to the Shore we can offer physical, as well as pre-employment drug screenings. We will be adding an additional doctor to the facility and we will have state of the art dental equipment. Right now, at Franktown, we are out of space…it is actually a hazard, the lack of parking. We have nowhere to go on the property there. We are a community health center, a primary care facility, this was our strategic plan even before the hospital was moving. I’d like to make that clear, we are a separate entity, but we partner with Riverside…we take care of 36,000 patients here on the Shore, we’re doing this expand access to primary care,” said Nancy Stern
The new facility is planning to operate under expanded hours (10-11 hour days M-F, and some hours on Sat.). Another point stressed by Ms. Sterns is that Rural Health has been planning, and needing this upgraded facility for some time, and that this project is not in response to the closing of Shore Memorial. Given that the Bayview and Franktown facilities are over 30 years old, both the service and the population has made this project that much more necessary.
Even as it is clear that the Rural Health needs the new facility, the proposed location, on Route 13 south of the traffic light in Eastville, is raising some concerns. It is estimated the traffic in and out of the facility will be around 700 cars daily.
Commissioner Dave Fauber noted that the location on Route 13 could create a dangerous traffic situation given that 700 cars per day would be trying to negotiate access to the facility, many having cross and make a U-turn turning off and onto Route 13. Fauber said the road is already notoriously dangerous and cited the intersections around Food Lion in Cape Charles and Stingrays as examples. Another bone of contention for Fauber was that the Comprehensive Plan attempts to move new development off of Route 13, and closer to the towns. Instead, this facility would be right on 13, and could pose problems as it will rest right on the main spine of our sole source aquifer.
Rural Health representative Kathy McAllister responded that the new facility would incorporate a series of retention ponds and wetlands to catch storm water run-off from the parking lot and other impervious surfaces, and that those would actually divert more water into the aquifer than the current vacant land.
The Commission voted 5-1, with Fauber voting against to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the new facility. Commissioner Downing added that the Commission should add a condition to the recommendation that Rural Health should first aquire permits from VDOT and the Health Department before breaking ground.