Community asked for input about children’s hospital

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- Is a freestanding children's hospital any closer to becoming a reality in Richmond?

A strategic advisory committee that's considering a proposal by the VCU Health System will meet Thursday night to gather input from the community, including families who would benefit from a children's hospital.

Anne Maliff, the parent of a special-needs child, says there's a huge desire for a hospital where pediatric specialists can work collaboratively under one roof.

Maliff's 9-year-old son Nate was born with a brain abnormality that requires the family to travel to several different hospitals in order to see specialists.

"Our hospital stays are at MCV, [VCU Medical Center] we see an endocrinologist at UVA and we see a neurologist at Bon Secours," Maliff says.

Maliff argues that the fierce competition among Richmond's top three hospital systems has made it difficult for families to navigate the system and find the best specialists for their children.

"No one picks a hospital based on what hospital system is best," Maliff says.  "You want the best doctor for your child."

A group of physicians and families known as PACKids formed to address the problems of fragmented health care and they have long fought for a freestanding hospital that's independent of any one health care system.

Dr. Frank Cerniglia, a pediatric urologist, says he'd prefer an independent hospital, but says he's willing to consider the recent proposal by VCU to create an all-inclusive children's hospital.

"We can't let the needs of the children gets lost in the quest for power," Cerniglia says.

Last week, The VCU Health System met with physicians to propose a 120-bed children's hospital that will operate under the VCU Banner, but will include up to 70 specialists from outside the VCU Health Care System.

The hospital will not require its physicians to be VCU faculty members.

Dr. Bruce K. Rubin, chair of pediatrics at VCU, says the hospital will also operate under its own governing board.

"That's big," says Rubin, "Its own governing board with its own governing structure and an absolute pledge that if there are monies that are generated, they will remain in the children's hospital."

It's estimated that the hospital will cost $500-million to build and will not be constructed for another five years.

While a Brook Road location has been suggested, a site for the hospital hasn't been agreed upon.

Anne Maliff says she's hopeful that physicians will come together to do what's best for the children of Richmond.  She says a children's hospital could change many lives.