The Patrick County Board of Supervisors and the Stuart Town Council unanimously approved separate motions during a special called meeting Wednesday to allow the Patrick County Economic Development Authority (EDA) to negotiate all matters pertaining to the hospital.
The motions came after three entities met to discuss options aimed at reopening the hospital that closed in September 2017.
Debbie Foley, director of the EDA, said the vote clarifies the EDA’s role in negotiations of various options.
“Nothing is off the table, within reason,” in terms of the path forward to reopen the hospital.
Foley said she and the EDA will work to find an option that will work for everyone, in “the fastest, most viable way. The quickest way we see to get in there and get it open within the strict confines of what we have to work with.”
The Virginia Community Capital (VCC) holds the lien on the hospital and property. The VCC’s $5.7 million bid for the property at a December auction was less than the more than $6 million owed, officials said at the meeting Wednesday. While the lender must have a qualifying project operating in the building by the end of this year, it has limited flexibility when negotiating a purchase price until after June 2020, due to contractual obligations with one or more investors, according to discussion at the meeting.
As the meeting got underway Wednesday, EDA Vice Chairman Bill Clark explained that State Sen. Bill Stanley asked local stakeholders to develop an incentive plan before he meets and negotiates with VCC.
Stanley, R- Moneta, and Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill, both worked to push bills through the state legislature to extend state hospital licenses and make the hospital more attractive to potential buyers. During a recent visit, Gov. Ralph Northam signed both bills into law.
The next piece is putting an incentive package together to not only help attract a potential buyer, but also to show the VCC the locality is willing “to share the pain” in an effort to reopen the facility, Clark said.
Stanley “is working very, very hard behind the scenes,” Clark added. “We’ve got to show him we are willing to come up to the plate.”
Lock Boyce, chairman of the supervisors, said “We’ve all got to feel some pain. It’s going to be for us. We’re going to have a hospital and the county is going to own it.”
Boyce outlined his three options regarding the hospital. Under the first option, Boyce said the county would offer VCC $2 million for the property and invest an additional $3 million to refurbish the facility that was built in 1959.
“Our best option is to purchase the whole hospital. We don’t need the whole thing. About 20 percent of the floor space,” Boyce said. To operate, “all we would need is an emergency room, a medical imaging department,” laboratory and two beds. “Let’s figure out how we can raise the $2 million to buy it,” he said.
He said the county could lease the portion of the hospital building. “There’s a cavalry very willing to come to our rescue,” he said, but did not elaborate.
Boyce said a second option is building a new facility that would append (add to) an existing facility, such as Patrick County Family Practice. He asked Dr. Richard Cole, who owns the practice and also is a member of the EDA, to consider whether he would be interested “in some sort of arrangement where we append his facility to create a hospital.”
A third option is buying land and building a free-standing facility, he said, adding he could find someone to operate a county-owned hospital, and noted many operators view the building as a liability anyway. “I’ll give you the land,” Boyce said.
The EDA was appointed to take the lead after the three entities met in closed session.