My wife Emily and I have had the privilege of living and working in Winchester for many years. I’ve also had the honor to serve the 27th District of Virginia as your State Senator for 16 years, bringing the Northern Shenandoah Valley’s concerns and priorities to decisions made in Richmond that impact our lives here.
As the former Chairman of the Senate Education and Health Committee and now as Executive Director of the Winchester Education Foundation, I’ve been able to see firsthand the availability of high quality healthcare for our citizens. I’ve also seen many of the generous acts of philanthropy and charity that Valley Health has bestowed upon our community in so many ways like helping support the new Emil & Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center, United Way, Hospice, etc.
I have followed the Anthem-Valley Health contract negotiation and am relieved that a solution has been worked out that will preserve access to care, locally. Some of the negative comments have concerned me, as I believe we have it so much better than many communities our size and we should remind ourselves of that.
Valley Health has grown to be much more than the Winchester Memorial Hospital on Stewart Street that I remember well when I was a little boy. It now includes five other nonprofit community hospitals that might have had to close if they hadn’t found a home with Valley Health. Those hospitals help support Winchester Medical Center as the large specialty hospital in the region. And they have brought physician practices and Urgent Care centers that ensure families in communities throughout the region have convenient access to care.
Some say Valley Health has gotten too big, but I see its continued growth and breadth of service as extraordinarily positive. It’s a good thing for our nonprofit health system to be stable and reliable, able to keep equipment and technology up to date, facilities safe, staff paid and focused on providing the best care. Some seem to mistake Valley Health’s “profits” as money paid to board members or shareholders, not as reserves to support operations during a pandemic, for instance, or to build a much-needed new hospital, or other initiatives that keep healthcare strong for those who need it. As a nonprofit charitable organization, Valley Health provides care to all who need it, regardless of their ability to pay, and invests millions of dollars each year in charity care and grants to support health outreach and innovation in our communities.
I’ve worked with many companies looking to relocate and bring jobs to this area and can say that access to high-quality healthcare and schools are the most important decision factors for a business looking to move.
I congratulate Mark Nantz and the entire Valley Health team for bravely standing up for continued access to local care in our community and for demanding our healthcare providers be fairly compensated for their lifesaving work. I encourage this community to continue to support our local healthcare system in their endeavors and stand behind them as they continue to fight COVID-19. I would like to thank all of the healthcare workers and everyone on the front lines trying to protect us during these very life-threatening times we live in due to the virus.
Our great former President Ronald Reagan once said, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he does not mind who gets the credit.” We are all in this together.
Russ Potts is a Winchester resident.