Reporter/Lynchburg Bureau Chief
5:13 PM EDT, September 25, 2012
Every minute counts during an emergency, but people living in northern Pittsylvania County usually waste those minutes driving. The closest emergency rooms are almost an hour away.
Priscilla Cook and Karen Moore make regular trips to Lynchburg General Hospital, a 45-minute commute from their hometown of Gretna.
"I have a 7 year old with asthma, and that's a long way to go in case of an emergency," said Cook.
"It's a long drive," said Moore. "If it's a serious (emergency), it makes a lot of difference."
Centra is proposing a solution. Leaders of the health care system want to build a 50,000-square-foot medical center near Route 29 in Gretna.
The facility would have an emergency room, a helicopter pad, and an ambulance on-site at all times.
"This is a game changer," said E.W. Tibbs, a senior vice president for Centra. "This is like nothing that the southern corridor of Route 29 has ever seen."
The project would replace the existing Gretna Medical Center, a smaller building that provides basic medical care by appointment.
The new facility would be much larger and would stay open 24 hours a day.
"This impacts and changes how the people in that area, their children and grandchildren, will receive health care," Tibbs said.
A key aspect of the new facility would be a large, 64-slice CT scanner. It's a piece of imaging equipment that would help doctors diagnose problems faster, without making patients travel to Lynchburg.
The expanded medical center would also have a larger staff: 80 people with good wages.
Pittsylvania County officials are anxious to get the project started.
"Citizens have lived without prompt, good, emergency care their whole lives in Gretna, so it's certainly needed," said Pittsylvania County supervisor Jerry Hagerman, who supports the proposed medical center.
To move forward with the project, Centra will have to get a "Certificate of Public Need" from the Virginia Department of Health. The state health commissioner will collect input from citizens, to see if there's a need for the project.
If approval comes through, Centra hopes to start construction next spring and have the new medical center open by the fall of 2014.
Citizens can learn more about the proposed medical center at a meeting Thursday night. The event will be held at Gretna High School at 7:30 p.m.
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