Hospital chief to receive community-service award in Arlington

Jim Cole has been president and CEO of Virginia Hospital Center since 1994. (Joanne S. Lawton/Virginia Hospital Center)

Jim Cole, who has led Virginia Hospital Center as president and CEO for more than two decades, will be on the job slightly longer than expected.

Cole announced last December that he would be retiring, effective in September. But the COVID-19 pandemic effectively put the search for a successor on the back burner, and the hospital’s board of directors has asked Cole to stay in the interim.

“We had to put the search on hold – no one knows when we’ll be able to re-engage,” Adrian Stanton, the hospital’s vice president and chief marketing officer, told the Sun Gazette.

Cole was “at least going to stay on for some time,” Stanton said.

Cole’s decision to retire came after Virginia Hospital Center – which began life three-quarters of a century ago as Arlington Hospital – kicked off a three-year, $250 million expansion plan on land adjacent to its main campus along North George Mason Drive. The project came after a land-swap agreement with the Arlington County government.

Construction work continues despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the excavation has been completed, and “things will now start to come out of the ground,” Stanton said.

The first phase of the current project slated to be completed is a parking garage, expected to come on line in the third quarter of 2021. An outpatient center should open about a year later, along with a variety of public amenities agreed to during the development-approval process; about 1.2 acres of the 5.5-acre parcel will be maintained as green space.

The hospital’s roots date to the early 1940s, although the original structure is no longer standing. The oldest fixture on the current campus is the power plant, dating from the 1950s.

The last major expansion of facilities came almost 20 years ago.

Like all medical facilities across the nation, Virginia Hospital Center saw its routine upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. Stanton on June 12 said hospital officials continued to monitor the track of the pandemic in the local area, and would wait until the appropriate time to allow patient visitors, which have been largely prohibited for three months.

“We don’t have a definite date” for lifting the no-visitors regulations, Stanton said.

He acknowledged the inconvenience caused by the policy, but said “limiting the interactions protects our patients as well as our staff.”

– Scott McCaffrey

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