During a recent stop in Patrick County, 9th District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, shared his thoughts about the hospital reopening, and discussed some of his proposals working their way through Congress.
Regarding the recent announcement that Foresight Hospital and Health Systems in Stuart would not open, Griffith said that he as well as U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine had early concerns.
“I think I can speak for both senators on this. We’ve worked on this as a team all the way along,” Griffith said, adding that “Senator Warner (D-Alexandria) and I shared some concerns with some people – probably close to two years ago – about this project that was just nixed.”
One reason he and the senators were concerned about the Stuart project was due to the familiarity of the process they gained while working closely on the Lee County hospital.
Officials involved in the effort to reopen the Patrick hospital did not reach out to any of them, Griffith said on a January 24 swing through the area.
Griffith recalled that he, Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Richmond,
“We said, ‘wait a minute. We were ready to go with Lee County. We were aware of everything that happened with the one that finally took, and we’re not seeing that here,’ and that raised concern,” Griffith said.
He also said that hospital experienced failure before it eventually reopened.
“I think they had two different people that tried to leave,” he said. “It’s not like one failure means you’re out. The third time was the charm in Lee County.”
Griffith hopes someone will step forward to help with the hospital in Patrick, or that the county will come up with a project that would fit the rural area.
When that happens, “I will tell you we all stand ready to help,” Griffith said. In the interim, “as long as they (Foresight) have ownership of the hospital, there’s nothing the county could do.”
Griffith said he’s proposed a wide array of bills related to several issues, including broadband, privacy, healthcare, and others – most are policy related “because my committee has jurisdiction on the policy – not the money.”
One of his proposals is related to humorous highway signs.
“The federal highway said, ‘you can’t use humor signs.’ Today’s message, as I was driving down to Henry County, was ‘seatbelts save lives,” he said, adding that Virginia and other states got creative and found memorable ways to convey the same message.
But, “for some reason, the federal government doesn’t have a sense of humor and they came out and said, ‘you can’t use humorous messages,’” he said. “So, I’m getting ready to put in a little bill that says, ‘yeah, disregard that.’ I mean, it’s a paragraph, just ‘this subsection shall not be enforced.’”
In terms of economic development, Griffith said he is working on obtaining funds for different projects – including one in Stuart to buy a generator for the water treatment plant.
“That may or may not get through,” he said. “It’s gotten through the appropriations committee, but we’ve been involved in a battle over a lot of other spending. We’ll see if it gets through the final cut.”
Griffith said he should know whether that bill is successful by the end of March.
He also met with County Administrator Beth Simms, and discussed potential projects that would help the county in the long term.
“They’re not ready yet for prime time, but we’re working on some thought patterns,” he said.