With the debate over the creation of an independent children’s hospital still looming over the Richmond medical community, a major Central Virginia health system has made its first move for a physical presence in the local market.
UVA Health System’s first Richmond location, a new pediatric cardiology clinic, is opening today at 5875 Bremo Road. It is run by two locally based cardiologists, Drs. Thomas Albrecht and Douglas Allen.
Albrecht and Allen offer care to children with heart conditions, including congenital heart disease, heart murmurs, chest pain and heart rhythm disorders. The practice will provide inpatient and outpatient care, and children in need of surgery will travel to UVA’s main campus in Charlottesville.
“A large percentage of the Richmond population has been going (to UVA) anyways, so the only way things change is that Dr. Allen and I have joined together, instead of working separately,” Albrecht said. “It makes it a more seamless process.”
Allen said the new venture was several years in the making. He had previously worked with the VCU Health System for 14 years and wanted to continue the strong relationships he had developed with the team at the Congenital Heart Surgery Program at UVA, particularly with the leader of that group, Dr. James Gangemi.
Albrecht had his own private practice but also developed a close working relationship with UVA that has lasted over the last 15 years.
Previously, UVA and the VCU Medical Center had a joint program called the Virginia Congenital Cardiac Consortium, headed by Gangemi.
UVA confirmed last week that the VCCC program is no longer in existence. A VCU representative said the relationship ended June 30.
Earlier this year, VCU opened its Children’s Hospital Foundation Heart Center, a pediatric cardiac program with which UVA is not involved.
“For 10 years, the surgical care of kids in Central Virginia was provided either here in Richmond or in Charlottesville by that surgical team, and it’s my desire to continue that,” Allen said.
“(Albrecht and I) put our heads together and decided it was time for us to venture into something new and put together a new type of practice,” he said. “In doing so, we were adamant that we wanted to partner with a medical center that could provide the best care for our patients, so we approached UVA and they offered to partner with us.”
UVA declined to share how much it cost to open its first Richmond location.
The doctors, along with a staff of five, occupy 3,300 square feet on the Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital campus, though the clinic does not have an affiliation with Bon Secours.
As UVA sets up shop in Richmond, the Virginia Children’s Hospital Alliance, headed by former Capital One executive Katherine Busser, is still working to create the city’s first freestanding, independent children’s hospital in the area.
In setting out on their new venture, both Albrecht and Allen said they considered the possibility of the children’s hospital potentially changing Richmond’s pediatric landscape in a massive way.
“I still hold out hope that the children and families of Richmond will have a full-service, independent children’s hospital here in Richmond at some point in the future,” Allen said.
He said most of the pediatric providers in the area with whom he has spoken believe that such a facility would operate on an open model, meaning all qualified providers will be able to provide care there.
“So if a new children’s hospital is truly independent under that model, then Dr. Albrecht and I may provide services and care there, as well as at other community hospitals,” Allen said.
VCU and Bon Secours pulled their support from the children’s hospital venture earlier this year.