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Task Force Finalizes Report

Two-year study analyzes where residents find health care.

Supervisor William Bogard mentioned spending two-and-a-half days in the emergency room at Loudoun Hospital Center more than two years ago to make a point.

“Loudoun Hospital Center, they do an excellent job, but there’s some limitations of the facility,” said Bogard (R-Sugarland Run), who after a heart attack stayed in the hospital’s medical/ surgical holding area. The holding area was turned into an overflow facility since patient beds were not available, he said.

“There’s a significant need for additional medical services in Loudoun County,” said Chuck Harris (D-Broad Run). “Concerning concussions, broken bones and things involving my children, I’d rather go closer.”

Bogard and Harris made their comments in reference to the "Health Care in Loudoun County" final report on the county's health care needs. The Loudoun Health Task Force presented the report at the Oct. 21 Board of Supervisors meeting.

“An increasing portion of Loudoun residents are receiving care outside of Loudoun,” said B.J. Webb, chairperson of the 21-member task force, adding that traveling to health care facilities can have an emotional and physical toll on patients and their families.

THE BOARD APPOINTED the task force two years ago to analyze the capacity of health care facilities located in the county and to identify any current and future unmet needs. The report's findings are based on the assumption that residents living in the county should receive services here.

"The premise the task force has used that nobody should have to leave the county for health care has been dismissed by the state as not being a sound method," said Jeff Cowart, spokesperson for the Loudoun Hospital Center in Lansdowne. "There's no county in Northern Virginia where people [never] leave the county to seek services elsewhere."

Cowart said residents in one county may live closer to hospitals in another county or need specialty care services not offered at their regular hospital.

"There is a dire need for additional capacity for western and central Loudoun," said James Burton (I-Mercer). "There are no hospitals in Goose Creek and Winchester."

Harris said Leesburg is the preferable location for a second health care facility, since one-third of the county's population growth is expected in Leesburg and in western Loudoun. “I would encourage this wouldn’t be weighted toward towns but toward” more populated areas as well, he said.

“It’s clear as we build out, one hospital is not enough to serve Loudoun,” said Drew Hiatt (R-Dulles), adding that he was opposed to Hospital Corporation of America's (HCA’s) proposal to locate a hospital in Broadlands in the “middle of a residential community.”

The Health Care Task Force recommended the board support “any quality provider of health care facilities and services” willing to locate in the county, as stated in the report. The task force also recommended the board support developing an independent Information and Referral Center for medical services and establish a Health Care Advisory Commission. Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) asked staff to prepare an action item regarding appointing a health care advisory commission to address the county’s health care issues.

LOUDOUN HEALTHCARE Inc. used the same logic as HCA concerning building capacity to keep residents in Loudoun, Burton said, adding, “If these people in Loudoun Hospital are playing a game, we’ll soon know.”

Cowart said Loudoun Healthcare is not using the same "logic" as HCA, which desires to build a hospital in a developed area near the Dulles Greenway. Loudoun Healthcare relocated Loudoun Hospital Center from Leesburg to Lansdowne in 1997 in an open area before it was developed.

"First of all, a lot of the characterizations that some of the supervisors used about the hospital are ancient history," Cowart said. "If you look at the recent history, the past two years especially, you see a tremendous record of success in terms of performance of the hospital, which includes a dramatic fiscal turnout [and] growth from a 80-bed hospital to 145-bed hospital in 2003 when the Birthing Inn will be completed. A lot of what the supervisors are referring to is not a factual picture of the performance of the Loudoun Hospital."

Cowart agreed Loudoun has a need for additional bed space beyond the 109 beds that are now at the facility. Loudoun Healthcare submitted a COPN for 37 additional beds, but the state review staff recommended approval against the beds earlier this week. The hospital will defend its position at a fact-finding conference scheduled in early November.

IN OTHER BUSINESS, the Board of Supervisors:

* Agreed by a 7-2 vote to contribute $1,000 to the Dulles Corridor Rail Association for a marketing campaign that supports adding rail along the Dulles Corridor.

"I don't think any money should go to an advocacy group," said Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), who along with Hiatt, voted against the contribution.

Herring said, "Extension of rail in Loudoun County is an important part of our comprehensive plan."

* Agreed by a 9-0 vote to amend the fee schedule and the operating policy for the Loudoun County Solid Waste Management Facility. The pilot FastTrash program will become a permanent Saturday program effective Nov. 1. FastTrash requires customers with up to 10 33-gallon trash bags of household waste to pay a flat fee of $3 per vehicle per trip. Customers with more than 10 bags pay fees based on weight.

Burton said the FastTrash program "speeds up things on Saturday and prevents fighting on the way out." "It's improved the flow on Saturdays. I'm willing to pay the price for the convenience," he said.

A net disposal fee of $55 per ton will eliminate the tiered fee schedule currently in place. The fee also will be effective Nov. 1.

* Heard a report from the Loudoun Tourism Council. Visitors spent more than $820 million in Loudoun County in 2000, according to the report. The local tax relief from visitor spending was $20.5 million.

"Our drive market is still doing OK. Occupancies are still low," said Cheryl Kilday, president of the Loudoun Convention & Visitors Association, about post-Sept. 11 tourism in the county. "People who want to get out of the city come here. They don't have to stay overnight."

The county has several new tourism facilities, including four new hotels and three new bed and breakfasts.