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    ABOUT THE WRITER W. Scott Burnette has served as CEO of VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill since 1999.

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Challenging year but bright future at VCU Health CMH

Traditionally, I present an annual update on Community Memorial Hospital at one or more public town hall events.

As with most things this past year, COVID-19 has made those in-person meetings impossible. Still I want to share with you what has occurred at your community hospital this past year.

CMH has continued to treat COVID patients on a non-stop basis since February and is experiencing a 3rd surge since. We participated in clinical trials for the treatment of this virus and will continue to do so as new treatment therapies are developed. We have expanded our physical space as part of our preparatory plans for a significant surge in COVID patient volume after the holidays. We are expanding our testing

We are expanding our testing capability and making preparations to receive the vaccine once it is available.

I cannot adequately express my pride in the CMH teams in our acute, long-term care, home health and ambulatory divisions that have shown their resilience, unwavering commitment and bravery in dealing with this continuing battle.

Likewise, I want to thank the many members of the community who have shown phenomenal support through many acts of kindness for our staff. I encourage everyone to adhere to the preventative measures of masking, physical distancing, and hand washing. They have proven to be the most effective deterrent during this pandemic.

Since the beginning of our fiscal year on July 1st, we have added nine talented physicians to our team: Drs. Darrell Brown and Katie Vemireddy (OB/GYN), Mark Carreras and Bryan Mosora (Emergency Medicine), Saroj Kandel and Bikram Saini (Hospitalists), John Pearson (Urology), Madana Vallem, Khalid Hasan and Sreenivasulu Metikala (Orthopedics), and Charles Nwaokocha (Internal Medicine); as well as nurse practitioners Sarah Ashworth at The Hundley Center and Dion Tomer in the Emergency Department.

To accommodate these providers, we completed a build-out of the 2nd floor of the C.A.R.E. Building. Recruitment efforts for additional specialists to serve the needs of this area -- with several promising candidates -- are in various stages of the process.

As you can imagine, COVID had a significant financial impact on CMH operations when we were required to close our outpatient services during the first several months of the pandemic outbreak. Likewise, the previously-mentioned efforts to expand capacity, supplies, and staff weighed heavily on performance. Revenues received from the

Revenues received from the federal government’s CARES Act funds did provide significant relief; however, they did not cover the lost revenue from the growth that CMH was experiencing prior to the pandemic.

In short, CMH ended FY 2020 with an operating loss of $1.9 million which, despite the challenges of COVID, was a significant improvement over the $12.6 million loss in FY 19. (It should be noted that 2019 was a year of significant investment in new clinics for the region, which were beginning to show major growth in our 2020 fiscal year.)

Our efforts to expand telemedicine services were interrupted by the pandemic; however, we were able to leverage the equipment that we received from our USDA grant to provide telemedicine visits into patients’ homes when we restricted visits to our physician practices due to COVID. We have since regained momentum with our efforts to expand primary care and physician specialist availability to off-site locations.

Thanks to the many programs we have added -- and are continuing to develop -- CMH is experiencing patient volume growth. We have seen our market share growing not only in our primary service area, but in markets more distant as well.

All of the services offered at CMH are integrated with VCU Medical Center and all of its clinics so we can offer a full array of care to our patients. Patients can receive everything from primary and preventative care up to cutting edge treatments and clinical trials that are part of leading edge research from the many programs offered by VCU Health.

I want to end by wishing you and your families a very Happy New Year. With several new very effective COVID vaccines, 2021 is already looking brighter than 2020!

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