ISLE OF WIGHT Co., Va. - Residents and advocates voiced support for a proposed new hospital to be built in the county during a public hearing on Wednesday morning.
The 50 bed Riverside Smithfield Hospital would include 10 ICU beds and would be built in the Benns Church area of Smithfield.
"It will allow us to help this medically under served area," said Bill Downey, the CEO of Riverside Health System. "The approval of this project will be beneficial to this fast growing area."
Riverside says about 2,000 people have written letters in support of the hospital. Currently, there is not a hospital directly serving Isle of Wight or Surry Counties, forcing patients needing hospital care to go to Newport News or Suffolk.
"It's going to mean that the citizens will be able to get care quicker, but also that our units won't be tied up on calls, so they'll be able to get in service in the county for the next incident," said Fire Rescue Chief Patrick Humphries, who said depending on where people are picked up, it can take close to an hour to get them to a hospital.
During the public hearing, people told emotional stories about their fears of needing emergency care.
Kim Liebold, a nurse practioner at Riverside, is also an Isle of Wight County resident. She recalled an issue while giving birth and needing to go to a hospital, but she had to go to Newport News.
"I was praying that he would survive and that I would survive because I felt no movement," she said. "That was 40 minutes of thinking my child or I would not survive."
Luckily, Liebold and her son made it to the hospital in time.
"We shouldn't have to worry about something so beautiful," she said.
VDH staff will take all the comments and then make a recommendation. The Commissioner of Health is expected to decide whether or not to approve the hospital in December.