A 4:30 a.m. fire yesterday on North Mulberry Street across the street from Retreat Hospital has renewed dialogue among area residents as to what, exactly, goes on at the Fan District medical facility.
“It was pretty scary, the smell of smoke woke us up, so we got outside quick and stood on the sidewalk near Retreat,” said Mulberry resident Sara Von Lunz, who watched her roof burn as she wondered what types of people are actually taken to the 227-bed hospital. “Seriously, is that a place for the homeless or old people or something? Like, say I was hurt in the fire just now, would they just take me across the street, or…I’d go to VCU [Medical Center], right?”
Richmond Fire Capt. Jerry Sisson said there were no injuries in the two-alarm blaze, however, the department’s investigators are still looking into if, had people been injured, they could have been admitted to the city’s oldest hospital.
“Let’s say, hypothetically, someone in the Mulberry Street fire had third-degree burns. Does Retreat have an ER for taking care of that kind of thing?” Sisson asked reporters, none of whom knew the answer. “I guess we’d need to take the patient to a more advanced hospital like VCU. ‘More advanced’ being my presumption, of course, because I really have no idea.”
As one of the residents in the five homes evacuated in the fire, Furqan Poncella said his dog was still trapped inside his 106 N. Mulberry apartment, though the 26-year-old said he was slightly more preoccupied with the fact that he saw, with his own eyes, an ambulance drive out of Retreat with lights flashing.
“It was unbelievable. I guess that confirms that it is a real hospital, with doctors and nurses and an actual ER in there somewhere,” Poncella said of the single-city block hospital. “But, then again, the whole place is about the size of a Wawa, so maybe [the ambulance] was just getting refueled.”
“So maybe that means Retreat is a hospital fuel depot for VCU,” he added.
Walking by the early-morning fire, Chris R. Meyer said he had just been discharged from Retreat, explaining that his pelvic pains were treated quickly and comfortably by physicians; he was pleased with the quality of service offered in the hospital’s Diabetes Lifestyle Center; and, next time he woke up in a nearby alley passed out from the effects of seven bottles of malt liquor, he would be sure to first call Retreat for a bed.