Health coalition requesting greater investment in Richmond’s East End

Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 9:53 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2023 at 11:13 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Months after a New York Times report alleged Bon Secours Mercy Health misused funds from a federal program, a group of community leaders still want to see a change in their neighborhood.

The Richmond Coalition for Health Equity met Thursday night to continue to discuss how they feel Bon Secours mismanaged funds from the federal government’s 340B program and invested money into wealthier communities.

“The federal government gave Bon Secours a lot of that money with the understanding that certain things would be done,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin said at the meeting. “Those things have not been done and that money has been diverted and it has hurt the Church Hill community and it has hurt the greater Richmond community.”

Through the program, nonprofit health systems like Bon Secours can purchase prescription drugs at a steep discount and charge insured patients full price.

In return, the hospital is expected to reinvest that saved money into low-income communities like Richmond’s East End.

Earlier this week the Richmond Times Dispatch reported the health system’s president, Mike Lutes, called the stories about the program misleading.

The coalition claims the Richmond Community Hospital had rolled back its services including its intensive care unit.

Something state leaders like the late Rep. Don McEachin felt was unjust.

“I know that Donald is here in spirit and I know that he is supporting everything that the coalition is doing and that he would be here if he could,” Colette McEachin said.

Representatives of Bon Secours were invited to take part in the meeting but no one showed up.

NBC12 reached out to the health system and was provided a statement on how it plans to bring more services to neighborhoods like Church Hill.

“This was an agreement that you made 10 years ago with the city in exchange for very low-rent property that allowed you to do things in the West End,” Kim Bobo, with Virginia Interfaith Center said at the meeting. “It was an agreement that was already made and it was not in response to 340B.”

According to the coalition, though the 340B program hospital systems do not need to report how much money it has reinvested into a low-income community.

Some state legislators at Thursday night’s meeting hope to change that by passing a new bill in this year’s General Assembly.

“When you are participating in a federal program that’s supposed to benefit the very community where you are serving, let’s just lay it out on the table and be public about what is happening,” said House Del. Kathy Tran of the 42nd District.

Organizers of Thursday’s meeting said they are meeting with Bon Secours next week to go over what they would like to see added to the Church Hill community.