Patrick County Shafted By Virginia Senate Democrats, Stanley Standing On Principle

Many of you know of my upbringing in the hills of Southside and Southwest Virginia in a little place called Cana, Virginia. That little town is in Carroll County, world famous for the Allen Family Courthouse’s “Carroll County Accident.” But what some don’t know is that I cut my political teeth in nearby Patrick County.

I started becoming a political junkie by working on a campaign in Patrick, Carroll, and Franklin Counties working for this upstart Virginia Senator named Bill Stanley, a country lawyer from Franklin County. We traveled together a lot, we stumped at a lot of campaign events together, and we ended up winning that election by 644 votes.

This week, Senator Stanley entered a bill into the General Assembly to reinstate the license for the Patrick County Hospital. The Hospital has been closed for months, leaving residents to drive to Martinsville, Galax, or Mount Airy, NC, to receive medical treatment. The Democrats on the Senate Committee told Stanley that he could either support Medicaid Expansion, or the hospital bill would be defeated. The Gentleman from Franklin stated he would not cave on principle, and the hospital bill was defeated.

Here’s the report from the Roanoke Times: 

RICHMOND — A fight to reopen Patrick County’s lone hospital turned into a fight over Medicaid expansion in the Virginia Senate Tuesday.

Democrats played hardball with a measure to update the license for Pioneer Community Hospital in Stuart, demanding that Sen. Bill Stanley support Medicaid expansion in exchange for their votes in favor of his bill, he said.

The emergency legislation by Stanley, R-Franklin, would retroactively extend the hospital’s license for a year, paving the way for the hospital to reopen after closing in September.

Stanley would not say who asked him to vote for Medicaid expansion, but indicated that it was more than one Democratic senator. Like most Republicans in the General Assembly, Stanley opposes Medicaid expansion and even introduced the so-called Stanley Amendment in 2014 that blocks a sitting governor from expanding Medicaid without action from the General Assembly.

Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, who voted against the measure, fired back that she has numerous residents in her Northern Virginia district who don’t have health care. They’re hurting and suffering, she said.

“They have hospitals, but they don’t have health care, preventive care, ability to know what their medical problems are,” she said. “I think we need to get together and figure out a way we can provide health care throughout the commonwealth and not just pick one small community.”

Sen. Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, said he understood Stanley’s anger and frustration at the bill’s failure. Stanley works hard for the people of his district, but so do 39 other members of the body, Saslaw said.

Every senator is voting for what’s best for their constituents, he said. Saslaw voted against Stanley’s bill after asking the vote be delayed for a day.

“Do I cast political votes sometimes? You bet I do,” he said. “That’s what the process is all about.”

Stanley responded on the Senate Floor to his Democratic colleagues.

This is where I stop reporting and start doing what my mother used to call “telling people what fer and how much.”

In person, Dick Saslaw is a nice person. However, allowing smaller community hospitals to die to advance political careers can be chalked up to nothing short of being a political hack. People in that community will have to continue to drive over an hour to get to a hospital because of a partisan agenda. His political calculations are putting his partisan agenda ahead of that of the people of Patrick County. Senator Saslaw appears to be more concerned about politics than saving lives. These shameful actions should not be tolerated by the voters of Virginia.

Obamacare in Virginia is not going to be something that the voters of Southside Virginia tolerate. I applaud Bill Stanley for standing for Republican principles in the midst of a political storm, never forgetting who sent him to the General Assembly.

Update: Roanoke Times Editorial — Democrats in Virginia Senate cast an ugly vote against rural Virginia