Lee County Hospital reopening application under review

Mike Still • Oct 23, 2019 at 10:35 AM

PENNINGTON GAP — Ballad Health’s application to reopen Lee County Community Hospital is getting reviewed by Virginia regulators, company officials said on Tuesday.

Ballad Vice President Monty McLaurin confirmed the application for a critical access hospital designation went to the Virginia Department of Health on Oct. 8, the day before Ballad opened an Urgent Care facility at the hospital site.

“Receiving this designation would be a huge accomplishment for the new Lee County Community Hospital,” McLaurin said in a statement issued on Tuesday by Ballad. “If approved, it will allow us to enhance access and improve quality of care for the residents of Lee County.”

“I remain impressed by the commitment of Ballad Health to reopen our hospital and return important healthcare services to our community,” Lee County Hospital Authority chairman Ronnie Montgomery said in Tuesday’s release.

Montgomery said the application was important to the hospital’s “success and viability.”

The critical care application is based on federal guidelines including the hospital:

- having 25 or fewer acute care inpatient beds;

- being more than a 35-mile drive from another hospital or be more than a 15-mile drive from another hospital in an area with mountain terrain or only secondary roads;

- maintaining an annual average length of stay of 96 hours or less for acute care patients

- providing 24/7 emergency care services.

Ballad’s plan for the Lee County hospital includes 10 beds and a 24/7 emergency room with radiology facilities. The hospital would employ the estimated equivalent of 42 full-time employees, including doctors, nurses, administrative and support staff.

The Urgent Care facility at the hospital site will provide some emergency care for Lee County residents until the planned fall 2020 hospital opening, when Urgent Care operations fold into the hospital.

The application follows ten months of planning and coordination between Ballad and the Hospital Authority. In January, the two entities began negotiating an agreement to try to reopen the hospital. That agreement was formalized in September, followed by a community health needs assessment by a 20-member group of community residents in September.

The application submission to the state Department of Health and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services followed in early October.

McLaurin said earlier that Ballad projections for about $10 million in capital spending on the reopening are still on target, including a $250,000 roof replacement.